Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government has withdrawn a visiting fellowship it offered to Chelsea Manning after the offer was criticized by CIA director Mike Pompeo and others.
Harvard had announced Wednesday that Manning would be one of about 10 visiting fellows this fall. Visiting fellows meet with students and give talks at the school. The designation is not meant to honor or endorse the recipient, Kennedy School dean Douglas W. Elmendorf said in a statement issued early today, but many people perceived it that way.
"I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a Visiting Fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility," he wrote. "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.
"In particular, I think we should weigh, for each potential visitor, what members of the Kennedy School community could learn from that person's visit against the extent to which that person's conduct fulfills the values of public service to which we aspire. This balance is not always easy to determine, and reasonable people can disagree about where to strike the balance for specific people. Any determination should start with the presumption that more speech is better than less. In retrospect, though, I think my assessment of that balance for Chelsea Manning was wrong."
Pompeo, who has a law degree from Harvard, had denounced the invitation to Manning and canceled plans to speak at the Kennedy School Thursday, The Washington Post reports. "Harvard's actions," he wrote to event organizers, "implicitly tell its students that you too can be a fellow at Harvard and a felon under United States law. ... I believe it is shameful for Harvard to place its stamp of approval upon her treasonous actions."
Manning, who is transgender, served seven years in military prison for leaking classified and sensitive documents to Wikileaks when she was in the U.S. Army. She was initially sentenced to 35 years, a much longer sentence than that usually given for leaking, but President Obama commuted the remainder of her sentence shortly before he left office. She was released in May.
Other criticism of the Manning fellowship came from Michael Morell, a former CIA leader who resigned as a fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. "I have an obligation to my conscience -- and I believe to the country -- to stand up against any efforts to justify leaks of sensitive national security information," Morell wrote, according to the Post.
Manning objected to her disinvitation in a series of tweets:
And Fight for the Future, an organization run by Evan Greer, one of Manning's major supporters during her incarceration, has started a petition demanding that Harvard reverse its decision. "The CIA should not be able to dictate what can and cannot be taught at an American university," the petition reads in part. "Harvard's decision to give Chelsea Manning the boot puts them on the wrong side of history, and undermines freedom of expression and exchange of ideas on campus."