Harvard scraps Swamy’s courses

New York: Harvard University has decided to remove courses taught by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy at its annual summer school session, terming his views as “reprehensible” in a controversial piece he wrote on Islamic terrorism in India.

At a meeting of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, faculty members voted with an “overwhelming majority” to remove two economics courses - ‘Quantitative Methods in Economics and Business’ and ‘Economic Development in India and East Asia’ - that Dr. Swamy teaches at the three-month Harvard Summer School session. The faculty meeting, convened to approve the 2012 Summer School course catalogue, resulted in a “heated debate” when Comparative Religion Professor Diana Eck proposed an amendment to exclude Dr. Swamy’s courses from the catalogue, the Harvard Crimson reported.

In a July Op-Ed piece for Mumbai-based DNA, Dr. Swamy had recommended demolishing hundreds of mosques and suggested that only Muslims in India who “acknowledge that their ancestors were Hindus” should be allowed to vote. Ms. Eck said Dr. Swamy’s Op-Ed “clearly crosses the line by demonising an entire religious community and calling for violence against their sacred places,” adding that Harvard has a moral responsibility not to affiliate itself with anyone who expresses hatred towards a minority group. “There is a distinction between unpopular and unwelcome political views,” Ms. Eck said.

Earlier, more than 400 students had signed a petition calling for Dr. Swamy’s removal after Harvard had decided to stand by him, affirming its commitment to free speech principles.

Dean of Summer School Donald Pfister said courses included in the catalogue are chosen by individual departments.

“I find (Swamy’s) position reprehensible, but on the other hand, it is our duty to support departments and their offerings,” he said. Philosophy Department Chair Sean Kelly had initially defended the unanimous decision of Harvard’s Faculty Council to keep Dr. Swamy on the teaching roster as an effort to preserve free speech at the school. Mr. Kelly ultimately voted for the amendment to remove Dr. Swamy’s courses. 

“I was persuaded ... that the views expressed in Dr. Swamy’s Op-Ed piece amounted to incitement of violence instead of protected political speech,” he said. Harvard had chosen to stand by Dr. Swamy in August in line with its declared commitment to free speech. However at Tuesday’s meeting, faculty members agreed to remove his two courses, effectively removing him from Harvard’s teaching roster. Faculty members said Dr. Swamy’s article was not a product of free speech - but of hate speech.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 December 2011 on page no. 13

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