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Over a dozen anti-war activists staged a protest against Harvard Kennedy School professor Meghan L. O’Sullivan Tuesday morning, disrupting a class she was teaching to first-year master’s of public policy students.
The protesters denounced O’Sullivan’s affiliation with Raytheon Technologies, a weapons manufacturing firm, and her role in the Bush administration during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
O’Sullivan served as deputy national security advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan in the Bush administration prior to joining the Harvard Kennedy School. She currently sits on Raytheon’s board of directors.
The protestors, most of whom were not affiliated with Harvard, burst into the classroom chanting “Meghan O’Sullivan, you can’t hide, we can see your war crimes” and “When missiles fly, people die, and O’Sullivan’s profits multiply,” while holding up a banner critical of O’Sullivan in front of the class.
HKS security personnel and the Harvard University Police Department responded to the demonstration, but no arrests were made as the protestors left campus on their own. It remains unclear how the protestors entered the Kennedy School.
Kennedy School Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf wrote in a statement Tuesday evening that the school “encourages constructive discourse, including dissent and protest.”
“But students and teachers have the right to be heard in the classroom and to listen to others in the classroom, and disruption of those interactions hurts learning and is not tolerated,” Elmendorf said.
O’Sullivan declined to comment on the protest and the activists’ criticisms.
The protest at HKS was co-organized by Resist and Abolish the Military Industrial Complex — an activist group that has previously staged protests against Raytheon in Rhode Island and Cambridge — and United Against War and Militarism, an anti-imperialist organization.
A RAM INC spokesperson criticized Harvard’s decision to employ O’Sullivan as a professor because of her past work for the U.S. government and her affiliation with Raytheon.
“We want to expose the fact that Harvard Kennedy — in spite of the image it’s putting forward — is employing someone who profits every time bombs or missiles are dropped or launched at Palestine and Yemen,” the spokesperson said.
Quint Forgey, an HKS student who was in the classroom when protestors burst inside, said that “the class was definitely shaken” following the protest.
While the class was not canceled as a result of the incident, O’Sullivan did not return to teaching the planned material, according to Forgey. Instead, O’Sullivan and the students spent the rest of class time discussing the disruption.
“It transitioned into a frank, honest, and open dialogue between the students in the classroom and Professor O’Sullivan about her time in the Bush administration and students’ various reactions to the episode,” Forgey said.
—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MHerszenhorn.
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