Douglas Elmendorf, head of Harvard’s School of Government, reversed an explosive decision to offer Chelsea Manning a fellowship. Manning is the convicted traitor who leaked secret government information. Hats off to those at Harvard who admitted they made a mistake and had the courage to rectify the situation. This situation was discussed in the Sunday New York Times.
Manning, a transgender, served seven years of a 35 year prison sentence for her treacherous behavior. She was pardoned by President Obama late in his tenure. This decision by the former president had many people scratching their heads.
The response to the original announcement of Ms. Manning’s fellowship was decidedly negative. Noteworthy was a former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency under Obama who gave up his fellowship in protest saying the invitation “honors” a convicted felon and leaker of classified information. Soon after Mike Pompeo, the CIA Director did not appear at a scheduled event at the school because “Ms. Manning betrayed her country . . .”
Harvard has indicated that it strongly supports the ability of noteworthy people to express their opinions at the college even if their beliefs are “odious” to others. It honored this tradition by offering an opportunity to Ms. Manning to speak on campus. A fellowship has a small stipend attached to it. Speakers receive no compensation.
It was gratifying to see Harvard deftly avoid “uncomfortable controversy over whether it should confer its prestige and honor on people who broke the law. ” The smell of the over-the-top political correctness of a Manning fellowship was too much for Harvard.
Unlike several other colleges in the country where the announcement of conservative speakers resulted in riots, injuries and destruction of property, Harvard found a path that should be amenable to most parties. Of course some indicated that the college was “kowtowing to the powers that be.”
Ms. Manning responded with the following, “this is what a military/police/intel state looks like . . .” Others think this is how a highly sophisticated and principled institution can protect free speech and avoid physical confrontation. Good job Harvard.