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Government department chair Jeffry A. Frieden acknowledged a history of student mistrust in the department and reiterated the concentration’s commitment to inclusion in a Friday email to colleagues, in the wake of allegations that Government 50: “Data” preceptor David D. Kane made racist blog posts under a pseudonym.
Frieden called some material on the blog “deeply offensive,” citing the “pain and hurt” the posts have caused students.
“I abhor any speech that demeans, devalues, or belittles any student and any member of our community,” he wrote in his letter. “We are deeply sorry that many students have found the past week painfully difficult.”
Last week, students alleged that Kane authored racist blog posts under the pseudonym “David Dudley Field ’25” on his website EphBlog. They ultimately called for his removal in a petition that garnered hundreds of signatures from Harvard students, alumni, and organizations.
After Kane announced he would temporarily stop teaching until Oct. 13, Frieden and Dean of Social Science Lawrence D. Bobo jointly announced in a letter to students Thursday that Government professor Kosuke Imai will take over as the official head of Gov 50. They noted that Kane will nonetheless continue leading optional lectures.
Frieden wrote in his Friday note to colleagues that he believes the department landed upon a solution that “best serves all our students,” declaring that the “immediate educational demands” of Gov 50 enrollees are “apparently addressed.”
Frieden wrote that the department can now reorient its focus from maintaining academic continuity in Kane’s course to fostering an “inclusive environment” across the department.
“Over the past few years, we have been reminded repeatedly that many of our undergraduates and graduate students do not trust the Department of Government faculty to have their best interests in mind,” Freiden wrote. “We want to ensure that all members of the Department community feel appreciated, both for their common interest in politics and Political Science, and for their varied and often opposing views on the issues.”
He went on to state that “open discussions” and “academic freedom” are key to academic excellence.
Freiden also expressed gratitude for the Gov 50 teaching fellows, whom he had previously called “unprofessional” when they proposed that students not attend Kane's lectures to pressure the administration.
“These TFs, our other graduate students, and our undergraduates are likely to have found themselves under a lot of pressure due to the intense attention being paid to these events as they have played themselves out,” he wrote Friday. “I ask faculty and others to be sensitive to their concerns and supportive of their needs as we attempt to balance all of the University’s principles in the best interest of all concerned.”
Freiden concluded his note with another apology.
“I deeply regret and lament the pain and hurt that many members of our community experienced as the events of the past week unfolded,” he wrote. “Together I hope that we can work to make the Department a better place.”
—Staff writer Juliet E. Isselbacher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @julietissel.
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