Walt will remain a tenured professor at the Kennedy School, but the announcement that he will leave the position of academic dean means that Walt will no longer be in charge of the school’s teaching and research at a time when his own scholarship is under attack.
Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood ’75 said in a statement that Walt “had been due to depart last June after the normal three-year cycle, but had agreed, at my request, to stay on for one more year.”
“His departure is completely unrelated to the current discussion surrounding the article he co-authored with John Mearsheimer,” Ellwood said in the statement.
Ellwood said that he sent an e-mail to Kennedy School faculty members on Feb. 21—before the uproar over the article—informing them that Walt would end his term as academic dean in June. Ellwood said he also asked professors for recommendations regarding the search for the next academic dean.
When asked to provide the Feb. 21 e-mail to The Crimson, Kennedy School spokeswoman Melodie Jackson declined to do so.
Walt and Mearsheimer, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, argue in their paper that “unquestioned support” for Israel does not serve U.S. strategic objectives and fosters anti-American sentiment in the Arab world and beyond. The paper was posted on the Kennedy School’s website last month, and an abridged version of it was published in the London Review of Books.
They professors argue that the “Israel Lobby”—a “loose coalition of individuals and organizations” including national Jewish leaders, Christian evangelicals like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, Republican congressmen, and columnists for the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post—has pushed the U.S. to adopt excessively pro-Israel stances.
Rep. Jerold Nadler, D-N.Y., blasted the paper as a “dishonest piece of crap” in an interview with The New York Sun, and Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., called the paper “anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist drivel.” Harvard’s Frankfurter professor of law, Alan M. Dershowitz, told The Crimson that Walt and Mearsheimer are “liars” and “bigots.”
Dershowitz, who publicly challenged Walt and Mearsheimer to a debate last week, said that Mearsheimer had been scheduled to debate him on the BBC at 10:30 p.m Eastern time Thursday. But Dershowitz said that he received a call at 10:35 p.m. saying that Mearsheimer had cancelled the debate.
In a statement to The Crimson, Dershowitz said that Mearsheimer and Walt “make outrageous and unsupportable claims; they invoke academic freedom in the marketplace of ideas, but then they refuse to participate in the marketplace of ideas by declining reasonable debate about their position.”
“I renew my challenge to debate either or both of them at the Kennedy School,” Dershowitz added.
Mearsheimer and Walt did not return phone calls to their offices seeking comment this past week.
Dershowitz is preparing a rebuttal to the Mearsheimer and Walt article that will be posted on the Kennedy School’s website. The Boston Globe first reported Friday that Ellwood would amend the rules of the school’s “working paper” series to allow for rebuttals by other full-time Harvard faculty members.
Walt’s term as academic dean will be one year shorter than that of his predecessor, Frederick Schauer, who held the post from 1997 to 2002.
Though Ellwood’s statement made reference to a “normal three-year cycle” of academic deans, three-year terms have not been the norm for administrators who have held that post in recent years.
Ellwood himself held the post for a year before joining the Clinton administration in 1993, and he returned to the school in 1995 to serve a two-year term as academic dean. Alan A. Altshuler held the post for two years during Ellwood’s absence. And before that, Albert Carnesale was the school’s academic dean for a decade.
—Staff writer Paras D. Bhayani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.