This fi­asco says a lot about Har­vard

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - Ex­cerpted from wash­ing­ton­­ti­san — Molly Roberts

They say the hard­est thing about Har­vard Univer­sity is get­ting in, but for Chelsea Man­ning it was stay­ing there. On Wed­nes­day, the univer­sity an­nounced that the for­mer Army in­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst would serve as a visit­ing fel­low at its Kennedy School of Gov­ern­ment In­sti­tute of Pol­i­tics. On Fri­day, the school with­drew the in­vi­ta­tion. That was a mis­take. Man­ning’s ap­point­ment im­me­di­ately pro­voked ire from some stu­dents at Har­vard, but it was pub­lic push­back from power play­ers in the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity that seems to have changed Kennedy School Dean Dou­glas W. El­men­dorf ’s mind. Af­ter for­mer CIA deputy di­rec­tor Mike Morell re­signed from a sep­a­rate Har­vard fel­low­ship in protest and cur­rent CIA Di­rec­tor Mike Pom­peo can­celed a planned ap­pear­ance, Man­ning was out. She will still have a chance to speak and take ques­tions at the in­sti­tute, but she has been stripped of her “visit­ing fel­low” ti­tle and the re­sources that would have come with it.

Yes, Man­ning is con­tro­ver­sial. Some, such as Pom­peo, see her as an “Amer­i­can traitor” who turned state se­crets over to the en­emy in an act of trea­son. Oth­ers see her as a whistle­blower who shoul­dered the con­se­quences of her ac­tions and served her time. Man­ning has also become a high-pro­file champion of les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der rights.

When it comes to “en­gag­ing stu­dents in dis­course on top­i­cal is­sues of to­day,” as the In­sti­tute of Pol­i­tics says it aims to do with its pro­gram­ming, Man­ning has a lot to bring to the ta­ble. When it comes to “ful­fill­ing the val­ues of pub­lic ser­vice to which we as­pire,” there’s more room for de­bate.

But look at the rest of Har­vard’s slate of fel­lows. There’s Corey Le­wandowski, the for­mer Trump cam­paign man­ager who faced a charge (later dropped) of as­sault­ing a re­porter. There’s Sean Spicer, who lied to the me­dia and pub­lic from the White House lectern. Morell is con­tro­ver­sial, too: Since his ser­vice in the CIA, he has de­fended “en­hanced in­ter­ro­ga­tion” meth­ods that he “doesn’t like call­ing tor­ture.”

El­men­dorf said the Kennedy School’s ap­proach has al­ways been to in­clude “peo­ple who have sig­nif­i­cantly in­flu­enced events in the world . . . and even if their ac­tions or words are ab­hor­rent to some mem­bers of our com­mu­nity.” Though the ti­tle of visit­ing fel­low was never in­tended as an en­dorse­ment, he said, the hul­la­baloo over Man­ning has made it clear that’s ex­actly how some view it. He con­cluded “we should weigh that con­sid­er­a­tion when of­fer­ing in­vi­ta­tions.”

When of­fer­ing fu­ture in­vi­ta­tions, sure. Es­tab­lish­ing an ex­plicit set of prin­ci­ples — one that dis­tin­guishes be­tween the Man­nings and Spicers of the world — to de­ter­mine whether some­one de­serves the des­ig­na­tion of fel­low is not a bad idea. Nei­ther is lay­ing out ex­actly what state­ment Har­vard makes when it in­vites some­one to spend time at the In­sti­tute of Pol­i­tics.

But Har­vard didn’t do, and still has not done, any of that. And the IOP’s lead­ers didn’t ex­press any am­biva­lence up front about Man­ning’s ac­tions, just as they didn’t about Le­wandowski or Spicer. The big­gest dif­fer­ence be­tween Man­ning and the con­tro­ver­sial fig­ures who will re­main fel­lows this fall is that im­por­tant peo­ple ob­jected to Man­ning’s pres­ence. That seems to prove plenty of other things peo­ple say about Har­vard.

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