Harvard Kennedy School will eliminate its individual student-run policy journals and consolidate the 14 publications under one umbrella “HKS Student Policy Review,” according to an Aug. 1 email sent to students affiliated with the journals.
The establishment of the new policy journal at the HKS Shorenstein Center raised concerns among students about its editorial independence from Kennedy School administrators, following months of student frustrations after the Center assumed management of the school’s 14 individual student-run journals in fall 2022.
Max Boland, who serves as the program coordinator for the Shorenstein Center’s Student Media Initiative, announced the decision just days before the first Kennedy School students arrived on campus ahead of the fall semester, surprising returning and newly-elected editors of the school’s journals.
“During the summer of 2023, the Shorenstein Center has been developing a completely new website for the program, called the HKS Student Policy Review (or HKSSPR for short), which will bring the journals under one website,” Boland wrote in an Aug. 1 email obtained by The Crimson.
In a follow-up email seven minutes later, Boland confirmed that the individual journals would not continue to exist as separate entities on the new website.
“After much deliberation, we’ve decided that the student journals will not maintain their individual journal titles moving forward, and all publications will be as ‘The HKS Student Policy Review,’” he wrote. “This decision was made to be as inclusive as possible of all topics, regions, and countries, and to provide all of them with an equal platform on which to publish content.”
But in interviews conducted this month, 13 current and former HKS students who were involved with policy journals said they were dismayed by the decision to dissolve the individual publications, which they learned about for the first time on Aug. 1.
Liz Schwartz, director of communications for the Shorenstein Center, confirmed in a Thursday statement that students were first informed on Aug. 1 that the individual journals would be consolidated under one new title.
Students also expressed frustration that the Shorenstein Center did not consult them about the changes ahead of time or even solicit their feedback about consolidating the journals into one publication.
Schwartz wrote that “in 2022, HKS decided to make the student journals program a part of the Shorenstein Center, and began the process of moving it completely under the Center’s administrative management.”
“Students have been informed of this move, and its implications, throughout the process,” he added.
Some students, however, said the changes were made without their input.
“The decision was unilateral,” said Amy L. Eisenstein, a joint HKS and Harvard Law School student who served as managing editor of the Anti-Racism Policy Journal. “It kind of runs contrary to the democratic principles of the Kennedy School of Government.”
“I would think that the Shorenstein Center and other HKS leadership would want students to be deeply involved with these types of significant policy decisions rather than leaving them to find out after these decisions have already been made,” Eisenstein added.
When the student journals first moved under the purview of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy in fall 2022, students were optimistic about the change.
Sly Yushchyshyn, who was elected editor-in-chief of the Harvard Kennedy School Review in May, said he only learned in March or April that the journals had transferred to the Shorenstein Center, but he was initially hopeful about the move.
“The Shorenstein Center has incredible resources, incredible expertise that would be incredibly valuable to the student journals, including the Kennedy School Review,” he said. “That was definitely very exciting.”
But subsequent decisions over the following months, especially the Aug. 1 announcement that the individual journals would be consolidated into one publication, left Yushchyshyn and other students disillusioned with the Shorenstein Center.
Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u, a recent Harvard Kennedy School graduate who served as editor-in-chief of the Africa Policy Journal, said that he does not trust the Shorenstein Center to manage the student journals.
“Something has to be done,” he said. “They neither have the attitude or the competence to manage these journals.”
Riva Y. Yeo, a joint HKS/HLS student and co-editor-in-chief of the Asian American Policy Review, said the situation with the Shorenstein Center “feels confusing.”
“I would have thought that the center for news, media, and politics would be aligned with our missions of trying to advance these important stories,” she said. “For some reason, the situation has devolved into a fight with students for power over control of student publications, which is so absurd.”
Schwartz wrote in a statement that Shorenstein Center staff “held multiple conversations with students about our vision for the new era of the journals throughout the Spring 2023 semester, but the exact nature of the architecture of the new site had not yet been decided on.”
Bethany M. Kirkpatrick, a recent HKS graduate and a former co-editor-in-chief of the school’s Gender Policy Journal, wrote in a statement that the Shorenstein Center has struggled to provide the journals with access to their own funding over the past year.
“At an all-journals meeting in September of 2022, the Shorenstein Center was asked how journals could access funding and responded that they did not know and couldn’t answer when they would know,” Kirkpatrick wrote. “This lack of clarity persisted throughout the year.”
Kirkpatrick said a $50 reimbursement request in January 2023 for the purchase of a poster and an upgrade to the Gender Policy Journal’s website went unanswered despite multiple follow-ups.
“Our question was forwarded to multiple Shorenstein staff members but never answered,” Kirkpatrick wrote. “We received no money for the journal over the course of 2022-2023, nor answers as to how much money the journal had to begin with.”
Schwartz wrote in a statement that “students never had direct access to dedicated funding for the journals.”
“As with all funding for programs at the school, funding for these activities has oversight from staff, and spending has always been reviewed and approved on a case-by-case basis to ensure compliance with school policies,” she wrote.
“The move to the Shorenstein Center will open up the opportunity for more sustainable long term funding for this program,” Schwartz added. “The Center has already committed significant new funding, from its own funds, to the program.”
But Kirkpatrick was not the only editor who struggled to access their journal’s funds last year.
Yeo said she was unable to access thousands of dollars in funding for the Asian American Policy Review during the 2022-23 academic year.
“We were emailing our past advisers who were directing us to the Shorenstein Center and then the Shorenstein Center would tell us, ‘We are still in the process of figuring out financial governance policies, we will get back to you,’” Yeo said.
While Shorenstein Center administrators said the decision to consolidate the journals was made in an effort to cover more regions and topics, some students are worried it will have the opposite effect.
Quint Forgey, an incoming second-year Master of Public Policy student, said “apart from the history of these journals and their alumni networks, I’m also concerned about some areas of policy that may go underreported on as a result of this consolidation.”
“It’s concerning insofar as certain areas of policy, certain areas of reporting could be neglected under this new consolidation that would not have otherwise been had the journals maintained their student independence,” Forgey added.
Yusha’u, the former editor-in-chief of the Africa Policy Journal, said saving the individual journals is “an intellectual and journalistic emergency.”
“Harvard University is a policy school. The journals are policy journals,” Yusha’u said. “They are contributing and giving voices to students to provide quality input for the improvement of policy in health, in education, in agriculture, in many fields in different parts of the country, in different parts of the world.”
But Jukta B. Mallik, a recently graduated HKS student and former editor-in-chief of the Citizen, expressed support for the Shorenstein Center’s plan for a consolidated journal.
Mallik, a former Shorenstein Center staffer who spent summer 2022 working to develop its Student Media Initiative, said “the fundamental motivation of the consolidation” was to provide a centralized student-run journal with more resources.
The Shorenstein Center’s goal was to create a student-run journal at the Kennedy School that could rival the Harvard Law Review and Harvard Business Review and become “a world class voice in the policy space,” according to Mallik.
But Yeo said she was concerned that elimination of individual journals would further decrease policy writing on marginalized groups.
“Most of these HKS student journals are dedicated to advocating for and advancing the voices of BIPOC and other marginalized communities,” said Yeo, using the acronym for Black, Indigenous, and people of color. “It just seems tone deaf for Shorenstein and for HKS if they allow this to stand.”
Shorenstein Center Director Nancy R. Gibbs wrote in a Thursday statement that the decision to consolidate the journals into one publication was made with the objective of increasing the diversity of topics covered in HKS policy journals.
“Being more diverse, inclusive and expansive is a priority both for us as advisors to the program and to students who are excited to be part of it, who in the past might not have been able to be,” Gibbs wrote. “Our goal is that a wider range of students will be able to write about a broader set of topics and identities than existed under the previous structure.”
Several students who served in leadership roles at the individual student-run policy journals said they would not seek an editorial role in the HKS Student Policy Review, with many citing concerns about the new journal’s level of autonomy from Kennedy School administration.
A handbook for the newly-created HKS Student Policy Review obtained by The Crimson confirmed that the student journals “are no longer classified as ‘student organizations.’”
Students who want to work for the HKS Student Policy Review as an editor will need to apply to the Shorenstein Center to be one of the five managing editors on the journal’s editorial board or serve in a senior editor role, according to the Aug. 1 email from Boland.
Forgey, who spent four years as a reporter for Politico before enrolling at HKS, said he believes “a key tenet of student journalism and student journal research is student independence and editorial independence.”
“A student journal should be managed by the students, including the hiring and management of those students,” he added. “Not only is it an important part of the academic experience, it’s an important part of the professional skill-building experience as well.”
Gibbs, who will serve as faculty adviser to the HKS Student Policy Review, wrote in a statement that she and her Shorenstein Center colleagues will “play an advisory and supporting role, just as our predecessors did; nothing about that has changed.”
The new managing editor role will serve “to help facilitate collaboration, cross promotion, shared resources and generally take advantage of bringing disparate teams under a single roof,” according to Gibbs.
“We’ll organize the selection of the first set of MEs just because there is no preexisting team to choose them,” she wrote. “But going forward, we are empowering students to develop a selection system that they view as fair, efficient and effective, just as the individual journals always have.”
Yeo, however, said after her experiences last year as a journal editor, she does not intend to apply for a role with the HKS Student Policy Review and would not recommend the publication to first-year students.
“If this decision is left standing and Shorenstein is in control over a sole student publication, I would strongly advise incoming students to steer clear of that publication and to find an alternative platform,” she said.
Gibbs, a former editor-in-chief of Time Magazine, wrote in a statement that the coming year will be a “great experiment.”
“We will learn a lot as we go, and the students who decide to be involved will be the shapers of the program as it evolves,” she wrote. “Being nimble and responsive to the changing information environment is a requirement every editor faces, and our students are no different.”
Yushchyshyn, the editor-in-chief of the Kennedy School Review, said the question of whether the HKS Student Policy Review will be editorially independent from the Shorenstein Center is a “big concern” for him.
“At the end of the day, the Shorenstein is creating this new journal, they’re the ones who are hiring the editors, and it seems like they have the final say [over] what gets published and what does not get published,” he added.
Yushchyshyn, who hoped to join the Kennedy School Review even before he was admitted to HKS, said he feels “incredible sadness” that the current version of the journal is coming to an end.
Still, he does not plan to join the HKS Student Policy Review.
“It’s not that I’m boycotting it,” Yushchyshyn said. “It’s not to the values that I hold dear and so I just wouldn’t want to be part of that new journal.”
—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mherszenhorn.
—Staff writer Thomas J. Mete can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @thomasjmete.