Letter to the Editor: The Agenda-Setter's Veto

To the Editor:

While University President Lawrence S. Bacow has much to say about the heckler’s veto, he apparently has nothing to say about his use of agenda-setting powers to continue to suppress a full reckoning with institutional failures over the accusations regarding Government Professor Emeritus Jorge I. Dominguez.

The administration has resolutely ignored or refused student requests to launch an external review of how allegations went unaddressed for 36 years. In doing so, they have avoided discussion of how, and even whether, changes to the University’s Title IX policies over the past few years would have triggered an investigation into incidents like the alleged groping of an administration staff member in 2015.

While I cannot speak to the specifics of the Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign, it is therefore unsurprising that protesters turned down invitations to air their grievances at another time and place. Bacow’s op-ed calls on the University community to provide a model of reasoned dialogue for a national public discourse that “has become so coarse,” yet fails to note that coarse discourse on campus and elsewhere is in large part due to a more fundamental breakdown in mutual trust — trust that must be regained by institutions of authority rather than demanded of students and citizens alike. Thus far, the experience of the Government Department suggests that polite, convenient protests and attempts at civil dialogue result in having concerns ignored rather than being placed on the agenda for debate.

In contrast, when the supply of future applicants and tuition dollars are on the line, the Harvard administration has responded with alacrity. Allegations of a major conflict-of-interest involving head fencing coach Peter Brand, linking the University in spirit to the Varsity Blues admission scandal, saw Harvard launch an independent investigation within days.


Perhaps Bacow can provide The Crimson with an alternative explanation of why a breach of trust with applicants to the College takes clear precedence over a major breach of trust with students in the Government Department and the entire campus community. Yet as trust lies at the core of civil debate, clear efforts to restore that trust would carry far more weight than lecturing us about the dangers of inconveniencing the administration.

Andrew M. Leber is a 4th-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Government.