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Op Eds

Kane and Schaub: Harvard’s Instructor Problem

By Joshua M. Conde
Joshua M. Conde ’22, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a Government concentrator in Currier House.

Harvard does not care about its students of color.

By now, I am sure most have heard the name David D. Kane. The controversy around Kane began after he decided to invite Charles A. Murray ’65 to speak about his new book to his class, Government 50: “Data.” Murray’s work has been labeled “racist pseudoscience” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The controversy then intensified when students discovered Kane’s website EphBlog, where Kane has allegedly written many racist blog posts under a pseudonym. Despite student protests, however, the University has done nothing substantial in regards to his status as a preceptor.

I find it difficult to believe that the administration was unaware of Kane’s alleged actions prior to his being hired, but I will try to give them the benefit of the doubt. What I cannot overlook, however, is that this is the latest example of a larger hiring pattern: instructors whose beliefs make them unfit to teach.

This semester Harvard has also employed Diana J. Schaub, who has a history of controversial beliefs, as a visiting professor in the Government Department. In one essay, Schaub states that the decline of Black people in professional baseball is due to the “absence of fathers in the black community.” In another, Schaub argues that “the contemporary phenomenon of angry middle-class blacks derives in substantial part from the erosion of both Bible-based faith and faith in Progress.” And in another, she argued Baltimore’s declining population is due to a low marriage rate and high abortion rate, particularly among African Americans. These essays are, if not outright bigoted, ignorant, and deeply concerning.

Some might think that prior writings on one particular set of issues might not necessarily be relevant in a classroom setting. But the problem is Schaub’s work on that set of issues is key to the class she’s teaching. Part of her research focuses on African American political thought. Harvard hired her to teach a course on African American political thought. How can Schaub successfully teach such a course if her academic work reveals that she holds such bigoted views of African Americans? And it seems she has already made students uncomfortable with her remarks in class.

Experiencing both Schaub’s and Kane’s class at the same time is exhausting for me as a student. To read excerpts of Schaub’s beliefs makes me feel as though I have been betrayed. Professors are trusted to represent the material they cover with sincerity, but in this case, it feels as though I have been lied to and exploited by someone in a trusted authoritative position.

And Harvard allowed this to happen. Harvard put these instructors in positions where they could disguise and push their own beliefs under the veil of academic pursuit.

If Harvard truly did not know about the pasts of these two faculty members, that presents its own problem. One would think that with a reputation to uphold, Harvard would care to invest enough resources to vet instructors before hiring them. So, if the administration truly did not know, I would call on Harvard to vet applicants more stringently and do better.

Or, more likely, Harvard did know. In Schaub’s case, at least, her past work wasn’t done under a pseudonym, and it only takes a quick internet search to find these essays. That leads me to question why Harvard proceeded to hire her anyway, especially to teach a class on African American political thought. Does Harvard wish to make their students of color uncomfortable? Challenging students’ views can be a good thing. But the pursuit of academic discomfort should not entail condoning ignorant bigotry.

The opinions held by instructors wield too much influence not to be heavily scrutinized. So, what Harvard must do now is simple. Fire Kane and Schaub, and any other faculty member with similar unacceptable views. Then, establish a proper vetting system that prevents the hiring of others like them. No more lengthy emails and empty promises. No more half-hearted measures. The voices of students cannot be ignored any longer; it is time they are finally heard.

Joshua M. Conde ’22, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a Government concentrator in Currier House.

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