Harvard and I

A few people have asked me just what connection I’ve had to Harvard, since I have many affiliations, so I thought I’d set the record straight.

I was a Senior Fellow at the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, Weatherhead Center, from 2007 through 2009. I founded and co-convened a group weblog, Middle East Strategy at Harvard (MESH), which I edited intensively (and with minimal controversy) for two years. In mid-2009, the Olin Institute folded, and in December, we put the website to sleep, as I had assumed another weighty commitment. I promised to explore options for handing off the site, and accepted a lesser affiliation, that of Visiting Scholar—a status reserved for persons who hold their primary appointments elsewhere. I spent my last period in residence at Harvard in November, and I cleared out my office when I left.

So this controversy erupted during my exit from Harvard, and it seems to me unfair that my critics have burdened the Weatherhead Center with responsibility for opinions I’ve expressed since I left, far away from Cambridge. Even so, defending my affiliation is a stand the Weatherhead Center chose to take, and it did so without consulting me—not only or even primarily on my behalf, I presume, but on behalf of the hundreds of Center affiliates whose views might, at some moment, deviate from what someone thinks is correct. And while the affiliation no longer serves my practical purposes (and I would feel a lot freer to reply to my critics without it), resigning it would damage the cause of academic freedom.

I welcome criticism of my ideas. I despise criticism of the principles of academic freedom on which Harvard rests.

Update, 2018: Read “A Controversy at Harvard,” my retrospective on this affair.