Faculty Talks Occupy, Free Speech, and Holiday Brownies

There was debate on the Occupy Movements. There was a disagreement about the distinction between free speech and hate speech. And, yes, there were even trays of brownies with holiday-colored Hershey’s Kisses sprinkled on the side.

Tuesday’s Faculty Meeting—the last of the calendar year—had not one, but two impassioned discussions, forcing faculty members into the first vote on a motion in the past year.


Facing a catalog that still featured controversial figure and Summer School instructor Subramanian Swamy, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences was forced into a vote on whether to approve two courses taught by the Indian politician.

“This might be the first time we’ve ever voted on the Summer School catalog,” Professor of Comparative Religions and Indian Studies Diana L. Eck noted.

Following a lengthy discussion on an op-ed Swamy published in July—in which he advocated for the destruction of hundreds of mosques and the disenfranchisement of all non-Hindus—the faculty took a vote. University President Drew G. Faust called for an official count of the vote.

Clicking away on metal counters, three members scanned the room, as faculty kept their arms raised.

“It’s good cardiovascular exercise,” she joked as faculty waited with raised hands, drawing laughs following the previous tense discussion.

The amendment—the catalog without Swamy’s courses—ultimately passed.


Susan R. Suleiman, interim chair of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures and one of almost 30 professors who signed a letter to Faust last week encouraging her to open the gates to the Yard, questioned the University’s response to Occupy Harvard.

“Is this about worrying we won’t get enough funds from people on Wall Street?” she asked, as several of her colleagues chuckled.

And Suleiman was not finished.

“As the president of this great university, you have a bully pulpit,” Suleiman told Faust, a statement that earned the enthusiastic applause of many present at the meeting.

—Staff writer Radhika Jain can be reached at

—Staff writer Kevin J. Wu can be reached at