Faculty Cancel Controversial Summer School Instructor's Courses, Debate Reaction to 'Occupy'

At meeting focusing on free speech, some professors chastise Faust for closing gates, and most vote to remove Subramanian Swamy's courses

Faculty members challenged University President Drew G. Faust on Harvard’s decision to lock the gates to the Yard in response to the Occupy Harvard movement at Tuesday’s Faculty meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Faculty members chose to remove two summer economics courses at the Summer School taught by Subramanian Swamy, a controversial Indian political figure. Over the summer, Swamy published an op-ed that advocated for the destruction of hundreds of Indian mosques and the disenfranchisement of non-Hindus in India.

Chief Information Officer for the University Anne H. Margulies concluded the meeting by updating faculty on the newly-created Harvard University Information Technology system and its future vision, which included greater collaboration with the library and further digital pedagogy.

OCCUPY HARVARD

In the first Faculty meeting since Harvard students pitched tents in the middle of the Yard, Faust affirmed Harvard’s obligation to safeguard its community while continuing an atmosphere of free speech.

“There is an effort to maintain two sets of values: the values of free expression that are at the core of a university and its identity and our responsibility for the safety of the Harvard community, especially the 1,400 freshmen living within the Yard and the Occupiers within the Yard,” Faust said.

In particular, Faust referenced the recent death of an Occupy protester at the University of North Texas and several crimes committed at Occupy Boston. According to Faust, the University, through securing the gates, had only excluded the dangerous elements of the movement while still maintaining the right to speak freely.

“There is a difference between the issue the movement is raising and the way the movement is expressed,” Faust said. “I have no interest in restricting access to the Yard for one day longer than necessary.”

Despite Faust’s argument, faculty members still expressed concerns of limiting free speech.

Susan R. Suleiman, interim chair of the Romance Languages and Literatures department, followed up on many of the issues raised in a letter that she and almost 30 other faculty members wrote to Faust calling for the reopening of the gates.

“What I’m concerned about is that this is really larger than us. This is a global movement,” Suleiman said. “Wouldn’t it be, in some way, consistent with our values and strategic in many other ways, to actually take a stand and say that inequalities in this country are terrible?”

But Faust maintained that the University must remain impartial on political issues.

“You all take positions, but a university does not take positions,” Faust said. “It engages and encourages every kind of speech.”

SUMMER SCHOOL TROUBLE

A subsequent vote for the approval of the 2012 Summer School course catalog, which faculty acknowledged would normally take no more than one minute, generated a heated debate when Comparative Religion Professor Diana L. Eck proposed an amendment to exclude Swamy’s Economics S-110 and Economics S-1316 from the catalog.

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