Harvard Nixes Visiting Fellow Title For Chelsea Manning After Objections

Tim Travers Hawkins/Courtesy of Chelsea Manning

Early Friday morning, Harvard University announced it would rescind its invitation to Chelsea Manning to be a visiting fellow at the Kennedy school’s Institute of Politics, while still allowing Manning to speak at the school, after a former CIA chief and the current CIA director objected to Manning’s invitation.

The dean of the Kennedy school, Doug Elmendorf, said it was a “mistake” to designate Manning as a “visiting fellow.”

“We invited Chelsea Manning to spend a day at the Kennedy School. Specifically, we invited her to meet with students and others who are interested in talking with her, and then to give remarks in the Forum where the audience would have ample opportunity—as with all of our speakers—to ask hard questions and challenge what she has said and done. On that basis, we also named Chelsea Manning a Visiting Fellow. We did not intend to honor her in any way or to endorse any of her words or deeds, as we do not honor or endorse any Fellow,” he said in a statement.

“However, I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a Visiting Fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility,” he continued. “I still think that having her speak in the Forum and talk with students is consistent with our longstanding approach, which puts great emphasis on the value of hearing from a diverse collection of people. But I see more clearly now that many people view a Visiting Fellow title as an honorific, so we should weigh that consideration when offering invitations.”

Elmendorf said that Manning will not have the title “visiting fellow,” but is still invited to spend a day at Harvard speaking with students.

“I apologize to her and to the many concerned people from whom I have heard today for not recognizing upfront the full implications of our original invitation,” Elmendorf said. “This decision now is not intended as a compromise between competing interest groups but as the correct way for the Kennedy School to emphasize its longstanding approach to visiting speakers while recognizing that the title of Visiting Fellow implies a certain recognition.”

Manning responded to Harvard’s decision in a Friday morning tweet lamenting that the university was willing to “chill marginalized voices under CIA pressure.”

Elmendorf’s decision followed objections from a former CIA chief and the current CIA director. Former CIA Director Mike Morell resigned as a senior fellow at Harvard on Thursday, saying that he could not be associated with a school that “honors a convicted felon and leaker of classified information.”

“Manning was found guilty of 17 serious crimes, including six counts of espionage, for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, an entity that CIA Director Mike Pompeo says operates like an adversarial foreign intelligence organization,” Morell said.

CIA Chief Mike Pompeo Thursday evening cancelled an appearance at Harvard, citing the school’s decision to name Manning a visiting fellow.

“It has everything to do with her identity as a traitor to the United States of America and my loyalty to the officers of the CIA,” Pompeo wrote in a letter to Harvard, explaining his decision to cancel his speech. “Harvard’s actions implicitly tell its students that you too can be a fellow at Harvard and a felon under United States law.”

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