Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Press

Harvard's name, obviously, still sells newspapers.  The "e-mailgate" scandal of the past few days has been appearing everywhere.  I was contacted multiple times from various news organizations over the weekend and yesterday -- the most contact from the press I've ever had.

I've chosen not to talk to them, not because I'm against the press, or because I'm naturally shy (I write a blog, after all), but because I don't feel I have anything much to say, other than what I'm saying here on the blog.  I don't have any additional facts other than what I'm getting from publicly available information.  I suppose the press is looking for my opinion, or more realistically some good quotes, but I'd rather not work through my opinions on this issue over the phone with a reporter.   

However, I guess I am "on the record":  reporters have quoted the blog.  While I'm not entirely comfortable with that, I suppose that's the way it is.  It's somewhat disappointing when you have to explain to your mother that yes, your name was in the New York Times, and no, you didn't do anything important.  

My first blog post on this was part of the narrative that the faculty was critical of the administration.  I noticed my second post has been interpreted that I've been "mollified" (a term used in at least one article) by the administration's explanation, which I do not think is accurate.  I'm glad the administration explained what happened from its point of view, and that it offered an apology (even if many interpret it as a half-hearted one);  I think the Harvard community was owed the explanation, and the Resident Deans were owed an apology. I acknowledge that the administration did a good thing to present that statement.  But I still say (quite clearly in the 2nd post) that I think the administration made a mistake, and there's clearly resulting damage they will have to deal with.  I can only imagine the Resident Deans are especially angry -- I don't believe I've seen a formal statement acknowledging that they are "faculty", but some of the initial speculation that the administration didn't feel they had to follow the "faculty policy" for them would, I surmise, be very insulting.  I don't believe the administration's statement addressed this point, but perhaps it has been addressed privately.  I also believe there's lasting damage to the trust between administration and faculty.  Harry Lewis has said he'll move much of his e-mail to a private gmail account;  I suspect many other faculty will do the same.  I also worry that this has damaged the nature of the relationships between Resident Deans and students, as Resident Deans are meant to be a "go-to" point for students experiencing a variety of problems.  Both sides, I suspect, will feel more wary of what they say to each other, if they are concerned the administration might be watching.  Those feelings may not be warranted, and the administration has tried to make that case in discussing the targeted methods they used when looking at the e-mail;  that doesn't mean they those feelings won't be there. 

I don't expect this issue to just go away without further discussion, at the upcoming Faculty Council and FAS Faculty meeting.  Some people still have questions as to how this came to pass.  Larger scale, this fits into a narrative I've heard multiple times the last few days, about the "corporatization" of universities in general and Harvard in particular.  It's an issue that many faculty naturally feel very strongly about.  This event may galvanize some reflection or future action on that front.

So again, I don't think this is over.  But I think the form it takes from this point may be much less interesting for the press.

There's also more positive news on "the press" front, but it's worthy of it's own, separate post, which will be right up. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't think the Harvard name sells newspapers, but rather that Crimson alumni are largely writing and editing the New York Times and aiming there content, consciously or not, toward the Ivy League crowd.