I won’t argue that the piece I wrote for my BDH column this week was well written. But there’s something fishy going on with the BDH Opinions section. Allow me to explain.
On Monday, the BDH published a front page story criticizing Brown VP for International Relations David Kennedy’s ’76 agenda for the Watson Institute. He’s currently serving as the interim director of the Watson Institute and, according to the BDH, has been making some controversial decisions about the direction of the Internationalization Initiative. The article cited faculty opposition to Kennedy’s signature Watson global governance initiative. In particular, the BDH criticized the personal relationships between Kennedy and a few of his new hires. Worse, these new (non tenure track) professors only have Harvard J.D.s, not Ph.D.s! Other professors hurled accusations that Kennedy is trying to turn the Watson into a law school. The article included not only innuendo, claims acknowledged to be rumors, and critical statements from anonymous sources but also delved into his romantic life.
Later on Monday, I saw my friend Evan Pulvers, who is in one of the international law classes at issue. She told me she had written an Op-Ed response to the article defending Kennedy’s programs, explaining the value of her class, and criticizing the BDH’s reporting. Since I was not excited about my own column, I offered her my regular spot in the Op-Ed rotation this week. However, the BDH opinions editor is refusing to print Evan’s column until after break. (Apparently my space in the paper just disappeared this week.) At that point, it will be too late for the response to matter.
This is the most controversial and “hard hitting” story the BDH has run all semester. The paper must stand behind this story enough to print Evan’s response this week. That is a standard of the responsible journalism to which the BDH aspires.
Though in context it might have been justifiable to mention Kennedy’s relationship with Dan Danielsen, the implication is unseemly. International Relations Program Director Peter Andreas explained in Tuesday’s paper that their relationship is several decades old and not out of the ordinary at Brown, facts that were not clear from Monday’s BDH story: “Danielsen is in a romantic relationship with Kennedy.”
Andreas also explained that the article’s claims about possible elimination of the IR and Development Studies concentrations were factually incorrect. From what I’ve heard, the issue with DS in particular is not precisely a funding cut, but rather the end of grants that supported the interdisciplinary research and teaching initiatives that are the essential cores of the program.
I covered Internationalization for the BDH during the fall of 2008, so I’m familiar with David Kennedy and some aspects of the Internationalization initiative. Everyone from the Provost to Ruth’s office to members of the Internationalization Committee knew the value David Kennedy brings to the job. They hired him for his experience and his connections. (And it was expensive, don’t forget that Harvard Law School professors don’t come cheap. Just look at the number of positions listed behind his name on CNN.com) When I interviewed him for the BDH in October, 2007, the global governance initiative was the fous of our conversation. If the University didn’t want to start studying law, they shouldn’t have hired a highly respected lawyer.
Finally, I think Kennedy deserves the benefit of the doubt here. When I interviewed him, I was struck by his emotional connection to Brown (class of ’76). He emphasized how much he valued the uniqueness of Brown and its focus on undergraduate eduation. Though I am dubious of the University’s Internationalization agenda being an example of Brown trying to be Harvard, my conversation with Kennedy reassured me that even after spending many years in Cambridge he still understands the culture of College Hill.