We have received a number of inquiries concerning the “One-State Conference” organized by a group of students. The students involved are members of recognized student organizations, both at the Harvard Kennedy School and other Harvard schools. Their stated goal has been “to bring students from across Harvard University together to enrich academic discussions about possible solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The aim is to explore the merits of a one-state solution…” The group only very recently posted information about a conference planned for early March, including a preliminary list of speakers. It is my understanding that the agenda is not yet final.
Academic freedom is a central value of Harvard University and the Harvard Kennedy School. We work hard to impart the values of open expression to our students. The goal of academic freedom is to provide the free and open exchange of ideas, and the hope and expectation is that a wide range of diverse viewpoints will be represented and explored. We also encourage students to exercise these freedoms fully and responsibly.
I was deeply disappointed to see that the initial list of speakers for this student conference was so one-sided. I very much hope this will change. Without the balance of divergent views that characterize the most enriching discussions, the credibility and intellectual value of any event is open to question. All our students have a right to take any positions they choose. But it is in intensive give and take that insights can best emerge, particularly around highly controversial issues.
I am particularly concerned that the conference materials may give the false impression that University support for cross-school, student-led conferences in some way constitutes endorsement of the policy agenda of the organizers or any participants.
This is incorrect. The conference and the speakers are entirely the responsibility of the student organizers. We are actively working to ensure that this misimpression is corrected. All students and student groups are eligible for very modest support from various funds for conferences they seek to arrange. This group has received some of that support as have many others with widely differing perspectives and issues. The agendas are their own.
I want to emphasize once again that Harvard University and the Harvard Kennedy School in no way endorses or supports the apparent position of these student organizers or any participants they include. We hope that the final shape of the conference will be significantly more balanced. Most importantly, we hope that the University will always be a place for academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas and reasoned debate.