Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government ignited controversy on Wednesday when they invited convicted spy Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradly Manning) to be a visiting fellow this fall. Less than two days later, the school rescinded the invitation. Manning was a former military intelligence analyst who was convicted of espionage and spent seven years in prison for leaking classified government secrets.
Why did they invite her?
- The school said in a statement Friday it chose to invite Manning because of its "longstanding approach to visiting speakers is to invite some people who have significantly influenced events in the world even if they do not share our values and even if their actions or words are abhorrent to some members of our community."
- The school also stated that "engaging with people with fundamentally different world views can help us to become better public leaders.”
- "Because controversy pervades many questions in politics and public policy, some speakers are controversial.”
- "Hearing a very wide range of views, regardless of what members of our community think about the people offering those views, is fundamental to the learning process.”
Backlash over the appointment
Former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell resigned his post as a senior fellow at the school in protest to Manning's appointment. Current CIA Director Mike Pompeo also cancelled a scheduled speaking appearance at the school in protest to Manning.
Why did they rescind the fellowship?
Douglas W. Elmendorf, dean of Harvard's Kennedy School, explained the decision to rescind the fellowship in a detailed statement. Here are the main points:
- "We did not intend to honor her in any way or to endorse any of her words or deeds."
- I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a Visiting Fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility. ... I see more clearly now that many people view a Visiting Fellow title as an honorific, so we should weigh that consideration when offering invitations. ... In retrospect, though, I think my assessment of that balance for Chelsea Manning was wrong."
- "This decision now is not intended as a compromise between competing interest groups but as the correct way for the Kennedy School to emphasize its longstanding approach to visiting speakers while recognizing that the title of Visiting Fellow implies a certain recognition."