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Gov 50 Preceptor David Kane to Resume Lecturing Despite Calls for His Removal

Harvard preceptor David D. Kane will remain the instructor of Government 50: Data and resume teaching duties on October 13, according to an email he sent to students Tuesday night.
Harvard preceptor David D. Kane will remain the instructor of Government 50: Data and resume teaching duties on October 13, according to an email he sent to students Tuesday night. By Kathryn S. Kuhar
By Juliet E. Isselbacher and Natalie L. Kahn, Crimson Staff Writers

UPDATED: September 30, 2020, 10:37 p.m.

Harvard preceptor David D. Kane will remain the instructor of Government 50: “Data” and resume teaching duties on Oct. 13, according to an email he sent to students Tuesday night.

Kane’s email comes after students in the course alleged that he authored racist blog posts under a pseudonym and a Sunday announcement from him and his course staff that he would stop teaching “for the foreseeable future.”

“I am truly sorry about the events of the past week and will do my best to return Gov 50 to the course you have enjoyed thus far,” Kane wrote in his Tuesday email to students. “I will be returning to lecture on Tuesday, October 13th and then staying thereafter. Lecture attendance, as stated in the syllabus, is required.”

Students alleged Kane wrote racist blog posts under the pseudonym “David Dudley Field ’25” on his website EphBlog. 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.

Other entries “Field” posted on EphBlog makes references to “Black Supremacy” in the NBA; claim that more than 90 percent of Black students at Williams would not have been admitted if not for their “Black’ness” [sic]; and interrogate Williams’s decision to condemn white supremacist group Identity Evropa without simultaneously condemning the Black Lives Matter and Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movements.

Following the allegations, undergraduates criticized Kane and called for his removal as the Gov 50 instructor. At a Sunday meeting, the Harvard Undergraduate Council unanimously passed legislation supporting a student petition to remove Kane from his teaching position and re-evaluate his role as head advisor for the Government department’s Data Science track.

That petition, which students began to circulate Monday morning, has received roughly 600 signatures from Harvard students, alumni, and student organizations as of Wednesday morning.

The petition claims that the EphBlog posts violate Harvard College’s Faculty Policy Statement on Racial Harassment, which defines racial harassment as “actions on the part of an individual or group that demean or abuse another individual or group because of racial or ethnic background.”

“While we recognize that these rules apply [to] acts committed while on the job at Harvard, it should be no less alarming that a current professor entrusted by Harvard is involved with these acts to any degree, regardless of the setting,” the petition reads.

The petition also demands that Harvard waive fees for dropping Gov 50 and adding other courses, allow students late entry into another course of their choosing, and facilitate accommodations from professors whose classes students would join. It also calls on the department to investigate Kane’s involvement in EphBlob.

“I just felt like it was an act of holding someone accountable who hasn't been held accountable,” Benjamin F. Bryant ’22, who signed the petition, said.

Maria Keselj ’23, a Crimson Editorial editor, who also signed the petition, said she believes the number of signatories reveals the degree to which the situation impacts some students.

“I think the most important [thing] is to ensure that students are able to continue learning and continue their academic life without having to worry about interacting with David Kane,” she said.

Outside of signing the petition, several Gov 50 students described joining their classmates andKane on one of two Zoom calls that he offered for his students in the wake of the allegations.

Prashanth “PK” Kumar ’21, who attended the first of the two calls, said he believed Kane tactfully contextualized some of the beliefs espoused on the blog, though Kumar emphasized that he did not agree with many of the opinions Kane expressed.

“He has very conservative views on a lot of things,” Kumar said. “I thought he was going to be very defensive — like argumentative — but he was very respectful.”

Kumar relayed that Kane said he regretted a number of articles that appeared on his blog — for which he did not explicitly claim authorship — and apologized for his first email to students in his course, which Kumar’s classmates lambasted as flippant and tone-deaf for failing to address the allegations against him.

According to Kumar, Kane also said the entirety of the class — students and teaching staff alike — would re-evaluate the quality of the course and his involvement in it later in the semester.

Despite the petition and the calls with students, Kane committed to returning to teaching in October in his most recent message. Kane ended his Tuesday note urging students to stay in Gov 50 following a “terrific start to the semester.”

“I will move heaven and earth to ensure that if you remain with Gov 50, you will, come December, be glad that you did,” he wrote.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences Registrar’s Office has extended the add drop deadline for two weeks to Oct. 19 for students in Gov 50, according to an email sent to the Mather House list from David Jud, a tutor and former Government Ph.D. student.

Kumar also noted that Kane said on the call with students that a formal apology addressed to the class is forthcoming.

—Staff writer Juliet E. Isselbacher can be reached at juliet.isselbacher@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @julietissel.

—Staff writer Natalie L. Kahn can be reached at natalie.kahn@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @natalielkahn.

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