Harvard is standing by Summer School instructor Subramanian Swamy in the aftermath of his op-ed controversy, admitting that the article he wrote is "distressing" to some but affirming its commitment to free speech principles.
With the stated goal of addressing terrorism in India, Swamy's article called for the removal of hundreds of mosques, the revocation of voting rights from non-Hindus, and a ban on conversion from Hinduism.
The article provoked controversy, and more than 400 people signed a petition calling on Harvard to fire him.
In a statement, Division of Continuing Education spokesperson Linda A. Cross called the article "distressing" to many Harvard affiliates.
"As an institution of research and teaching, we are dedicated to the proposition that all people, regardless of color or creed, deserve equal opportunities, equal respect, and equal protection,” Cross said. “Recent writings by Dr. Swamy therefore are distressing to many members of our community, and understandably so.”
But Harvard is choosing to stand by Swamy, an economics instructor at Harvard Summer School and political leader in India.
"It is central to the mission of a university to protect free speech, including that of Dr. Swamy and of those who disagree with him,” Cross said in the statement. “We are ultimately stronger as a university when we maintain our commitment to the most basic freedoms that enable the robust exchange of ideas."
The group that started the petition, which calls itself the Coalition Against Bigotry at Harvard, echoed its support for the University's endorsement of free speech but clarified in a statement that "the petition is not aimed at silencing Dr. Swamy.”
“Rather, it calls on Harvard to dissociate itself from someone who engages in hate speech, grossly stereotyping all Muslims and advocating the destruction of 300 mosques in India," the statement said. "Dr. Swamy's comments stand in opposition to the goal of fostering reasoned civil discourse at Harvard.”
At the Summer School, Swamy teaches Economics S-110: “Quantitative Methods in Economics and Business” and Economics S-1316: “Economic Development in India and East Asia.” The upcoming week is the final week of the summer term.
The article was published in the July 16 edition of the Indian newspaper Daily News and Analysis. Controversy erupted over a week ago when the petition gained momentum.
At the time, Summer School Dean Donald H. Pfister said that the school "will give this matter our serious attention."
—Staff writer Leanna B. Ehrlich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.