In remarks to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at their monthly meeting on Tuesday, University President Drew G. Faust condemned the Divest Harvard-led blockade of Massachusetts Hall last week and reassured professors that the University does not take into account the political views and actions of tenure candidates in making tenure decisions.
Commenting on last week’s blockade of Massachusetts Hall by Divest Harvard student activists, which resulted in the arrest of one undergraduate, Faust mentioned the importance of free speech in the University.
“We fully respect the rights of members of our community to express their views freely and robustly,” she said.
But Divest Harvard members, she said, went beyond the limits of their free speech by “infringing on the rights of other community members to conduct their normal activities.”
She added that there is a need for this open conversation, yet that Divest Harvard members had acted outside of these bounds.
“Blocking the entrance to buildings, following and videotaping me and then editing and posting my words in ways that misrepresent them are not part of reasoned and civil discourse,” she said.
Faust also responded to a letter submitted to her last week by members of the Faculty Council—FAS’s top elected body—in which members expressed their concerns that a candidate’s political views and actions might be considered during the tenure process. Faust denied that allegation to the faculty Tuesday.
The letter from the Faculty Council comes in the wake of Associate Anthropology professor Kimberly Theidon’s allegations that she was denied tenure last May because of her public support for victims of sexual assault.
Theidon filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination in late March, claiming that the University violated Title IX by by denying her tenure in May 2013 for engaging in speech and conduct protected by federal anti-discrimination law.
Faust reaffirmed the University’s commitment to free speech, saying, “I do wish to emphasize that free and open speech are essential to everything we do as a community of learning.”
—Staff writer Dev A. Patel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dev_a_patel.
—Staff writer Steven R. Watros can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveWatros.
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