First, the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government invites a former intelligence officer for the US army who was convicted of espionage and sentenced to prison for thirty-five years to become a Fellow of the Institute. The man’s qualification? He thinks that he is a she, demands that we accommodate his delusion, and treats our unwillingness to do so as a justification for his misconduct.
Then, after an outbreak of criticism, the resignation from the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs of a former acting director of the CIA, and a scathing letter from the current director, Douglas W. Elmendorf, the hapless dean of the Kennedy School, rescinds the invitation and issues a statement denying what everyone knows — that the school honors someone when it invites that someone to become a Visiting Fellow of its Institute of Politics.
I agree with Elmendorf that inviting someone to speak is not an endorsement of everything that the someone says. But it is a statement that the person is well worth hearing and is likely to have something to teach us. When a student club invites a traitor like Chelsea Manning to speak, it is a disgrace. But the disgrace belongs to the club, and there is a powerful case to be made for the university letting its members disgrace themselves in such a way. But when a university or one of its branches does the like, the disgrace belongs to the institution. It is supposed to have high standards.
Apart from committing treason, having a sex-change operation, and dining out on the combination, Chelsea Manning has no qualifications justifying his receiving such an honor. What happened at Harvard was virtue-signaling. Think what that tells you about what the current leadership of the Institute of Politics thinks is virtuous. Elmendorf should resign his post, and the same can be said for the leadership of the Institute of Politics.
According to Twitter, this is the way Manning sees it:
— Chelsea E. Manning (@xychelsea) September 15, 2017
Note that Manning understood the role originally intended for him. Visiting Fellows do not just lecture. They have the schools’ imprimatur. As Fellows, they teach — even if only briefly — and that is what he hoped to do at Harvard.