Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana dismissed the work of Charles A. Murray ’65 as “discredited” in a Tuesday interview — a few days after Murray spoke at a controversial webinar for Harvard affiliates.
In expressing his view, Khurana concurred with his colleague, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay, who said in a recent interview that she does not believe Murray’s work has academic merit.
“I agree with Dean Gay. As a social scientist myself, this is not the first time I have come across this work,” Khurana said. “Very early in my academic career, the claims were basically discredited by people who had done deep work in this area.”
Khurana, a sociology professor and professor of leadership development at Harvard Business School, and Gay, a government and African and African American studies professor, are prominent members of the University’s faculty in the social sciences.
Government instructor David D. Kane invited Murray, who spoke about his 2020 book, “Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class,” as part of a lecture series entitled “Data Scientists, Data Professionals, Data Dissidents.”
During the webinar, Murray — whose work the Southern Poverty Law Center terms “racist pseudoscience” — disputed the idea that race is a social construct and slammed the University’s faculty, arguing that they prioritize “social justice” over “Veritas,” meaning truth.
Faculty in attendance criticized Murray’s work, saying it makes unfounded claims and is rooted in flawed methodology. They criticized Kane, too, for both inviting Murray to speak and for disabling the public chat during the webinar. Kane did, however, allow attendees to submit questions via a private submission function.
Khurana said that all Harvard affiliates, and faculty in particular, have a responsibility to consider both the “academic merit” and community impact of inviting any speaker to campus.
“We should also make sure there's space for response to any perspective and point of view,” he said.
“I would not be comfortable ever being in an environment where it was one way: somebody got to say something and there was no interrogation and challenge on the other side,” Khurana added. “Each of us have a responsibility to speak up and speak out in intense debate when assertions are made that are rooted in prejudice, bigotry, and what I would call not very sophisticated uses of data.”
Murray’s webinar came two weeks after Government professor Kosuke Imai replaced Kane as course head of Government 50: “Data,” following student allegations that Kane authored racist blog posts under the pseudonym “David Dudley Field ’25” on his website EphBlog.
Students expressed hurt, shock, and anger in wake of the revelations. Some mobilized to call for Kane’s removal from his teaching role in a petition that garnered nearly 700 signatures from Harvard undergraduates, alumni, and organizations. Despite the petition, Kane will continue to give optional lectures for Gov 50 students and will continue leading the speaker series, which he has told students is unconnected to the course.
Khurana acknowledged the distress Kane’s alleged posts caused for Gov 50 students and other undergraduates.
“I recognize how painful this experience was, to have even any kind of suggestion that somehow people question your belongingness,” he said. “When we are hearing people who are talking about having experienced pain or having experienced marginalization, we have a responsibility to listen.”
—Staff writer Juliet E. Isselbacher can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @julietissel.