Former Fellow Chelsea Manning

The mid September appointment of Chelsea Manning—a former soldier convicted of leaking classified information, pardoned by President Barack Obama, and a prominent transgender activist—as a “visiting fellow” of Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) was never going to be popular. (Nor were the appointments of Corey Lewandowski, a former campaign adviser to President Donald Trump, and former White House press secretary Sean Spicerto the same status.) Following Manning’s appointment, Michael J. Morrel, a past deputy director of the CIA, resigned as a fellow; thereafter, CIA director Mike Pompeo, J.D. ’94, abruptly canceled an HKS speaking appointment. And shortly after that, dean Douglas W. Elmendorf withdrew Manning’s fellowship, saying HKS had been mistaken to extend the honorific in this instance, when an invitation to speak would have sufficed. That response created a further uproar, as critics charged the school with caving in to the intelligence community or discriminating against convicts (see The incident thus overshadowed the traditional role the HKS’s forums have played in hosting wide-ranging, civil presentations extending across the spectrum of political, policy, and international discourse, and thus became more partisan ammunition amid many other heated debates about speech on campuses nationwide. The dean later announced that he was consulting widely to develop new standards and procedures for appointing future fellows; an “improved approach” should be in place later this year.

Read more articles by: John S. Rosenberg

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