More than 150 Harvard professors are in open revolt against the university's administration after it rescinded a Ph.D. program offer to ex-inmate Michelle Jones and withdrew a fellowship invitation to convicted leaker Chelsea Manning.
Alumni of the Ivy League school also are voicing opposition to the recent decisions regarding Jones and Manning.
“Harvard has prioritized political expediency over scholarly values,” reads a “We are Educators Not Prosecutors” petition, signed by more than 150 faculty members. “The decisions in these cases have been made not by following standardized procedure, but by reacting in an ad hoc manner to a climate of anxiety and intimidation.”
Jones’ case reaped attention following a glowing New York Times article. Jones – “a published scholar of American history while behind bars” – saw her offer to study at Harvard overturned because she allegedly “played down her crime” in the application.
Jones was sentenced to 50 years in prison in the 1990s after admitting she beat her 4-year-old son, left him alone for days, and then found him dead. She buried the child without telling police, the child’s father or his family. She was released after 20 years based on good behavior and scholarly achievements.
According to the Times, however, the decision was reached out of concern that admitting Jones to Harvard would prompt a backlash among other rejected candidates, parents of students and conservative media.
Manning, meanwhile, has seen her fellowship offer rescinded following outrage from former CIA officials, who've branded the convicted WikiLeaks leaker as a “traitor.”
Some Harvard alumni have, in response, called for the withdrawal of offers issued to President Donald Trump’s former aides Sean Spicer and Corey Lewandowski, Fox News reported.
The petition demands that the university not discriminate based on “criminal history,” invest in prison reform research and invite Manning to speak on LGBTQ issues at the institution.
“These steps will go some distance towards ensuring that, in the future, our University does not allow a misguided and moralistic notion of indelible stigma — or a fear of media controversy — to divert us from our core values,” the petition reads.
“In each case, the administration appears to have allowed the fear of public opinion and political interference to determine its actions,” it adds, emphasizing that “we are educators committed to the open, critical exchange of ideas.”