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Government professor Kosuke Imai will take over as the official head of Government 50: “Data” in order to “ensure that the course can proceed without further disruption,” divisional Dean of Social Science Lawrence D. Bobo and Government department Chair Jeffry A. Frieden announced in a letter to students Thursday.
Gov 50 Preceptor David D. Kane will continue leading optional lectures, despite Imai's installation as the new course head. The announcement comes after students alleged that Kane authored racist blog posts under the pseudonym “David Dudley Field ’25” on his website EphBlog, prompting students to call for his removal in a petition that garnered nearly 700 signatures from Harvard students, alumni, and organizations.
One post from “Field” on the blog was signed “Dave Kane ’88.” Kane, a 1988 graduate of Williams College, created the blog in 2003 for Williams affiliates.
Frieden and Bobo wrote in their Thursday letter that the addition of a senior faculty member in a course with a preceptor is common.
“It is often the case that courses taught by Preceptors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences are overseen by more senior faculty,” Frieden and Bobo wrote. “Consistent with this practice, Professor Imai will serve as the head of Gov 50.”
Kane will resume lecturing on Oct. 13, though his lectures will be optional under the new arrangement, Frieden and Bobo wrote. Students will be able to continue attending smaller sessions with their respective teaching fellows instead of Kane’s lectures for the remainder of the semester. Teaching fellows will be in charge of grading, with oversight from Imai.
Kane temporarily stopped lecturing beginning Tuesday in a joint agreement with Gov 50 course staff, according to a Sunday email from course staff. The staff’s message came one day after several teaching fellows proposed meeting with students privately in lieu of attending Kane’s lectures to encourage the administration to identify a replacement for Kane. In an email to concentrators Sunday, Frieden called the teaching fellows’ proposal “completely inappropriate” and “unprofessional” given their positions.
Imai, who also serves as coordinator of the Methods field in the Government department, addressed Gov 50 students in a separate letter Thursday.
“My goal is to make sure that the recent controversy surrounding Government 50 instruction does not dampen your interest in quantitative social science,” Imai wrote.
“Like Professor Frieden, I am committed to supporting your academic continuity and am confident we can deliver a truly excellent learning experience in Government 50 for the remainder of the fall term,” he added. “However, the choice to continue in this course is entirely yours.”
Imai reminded students that the Registrar’s Office has extended the Add/Drop deadline for Gov 50 for two weeks, to Oct. 19, and has waived the Add/Drop fee for transferring from Gov 50 into Government 51: “Data Analysis and Politics.”
Imai wrote that he does not endorse Kane’s controversial decision to invite Charles A. Murray ’65 to speak in the course’s optional lecture series.
“For the record, let me say that I share the dismay many of you feel about the invitation issued to Charles Murray as part of this course,” Imai wrote. “I do not believe that his claims have any scientific validity or educational value.”
Imai wrote that the talk is optional and that the teaching staff arranged for Sociology professor Jocelyn Viterna to give an alternative talk, which he “heartily” encouraged students to attend instead.
Bobo and Frieden acknowledged the difficulty facing Gov 50 students and staff, and wrote that their priorities are to fulfill their educational obligations while respecting academic freedom.
“It is clear that this has been very difficult for many of you, and we are sorry for the distress and disruption it has caused in what is already a challenging semester and unsettling time in the world,” Bobo and Frieden wrote.
“We wish to thank you for your forbearance as we seek, first and foremost, to fulfill our educational obligations to you as members of the Harvard community and students in this class while also respecting core institutional values regarding academic freedom,” they added.
—Staff writer Kevin R. Chen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @kchenx.
—Staff writer Natalie L. Kahn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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