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Editorials

Gov Department Keeps Kane, Abandons Students

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Shamefully, David Kane will continue teaching Government 50: “Data” despite allegedly authoring racist blog posts under a pseudonym, which his students unearthed two weeks ago. Students linked Kane to the posts, which he has not denied authoring, by noting that he signed his real name and graduation year to one post filed under the pseudonym and created the blog itself.

One such post argues his alma matter, Williams College, should allow a Neo-Nazi group on campus, while another baselessly claims that almost every Black student at his alma mater was only there because of their race, challenging the validity of non-white students in higher education. By allowing Kane to continue teaching, the Government department has utterly failed its students, particularly those who now have good reason to believe that their preceptor views them as lesser than white peers. They have signaled to students and faculty alike that embracing white supremacy is permissible in their department.

Last week, we called on Harvard to back up its anti-racist rhetoric by firing David Kane, or at least removing him from the course while reviewing the case.

Instead, the Government Department announced in a letter to students on Thursday that — with professor Kosuke Imai taking over as the official course head (whatever that means) — Kane would continue to lead Gov 50 lectures, though they will be optional. Which provokes the question: Why keep Kane if his contribution isn’t essential to the course?

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Blog posts filed under an author tag to which Kane has signed his name on at least one post fixate on genetic differences between races. In one, the author explicitly agrees with Charles Murray — a speaker Kane invited to the course, best known for arguing that the “underclass” (among them poor people, Black people, and women) are societally inferior due to genetic differences that render them lazier and less intelligent. The post reads: “Genetics has a huge influence on most personal characteristics. Those genetics differ across races. Therefore, . . .”

A follow-up letter sent to students on Friday — nearly two weeks after the posts came to light — offered a thin, overdue acknowledgment of the “pain and hurt” the posts have caused students. The same letter also went on to affirm Thursday’s decision, claiming the department had met “immediate educational demands” with a solution that “best serves all our students.” Is the department serious?

These two claims — that students are hurting, but that their needs have also been addressed by Thursday's decision — are inherently contradictory. Students’ hurt is their need. How does the choice to let Kane continue teaching address students’ needs, or alleviate their hurt? How are students — especially Black and other non-white students — ever to feel comfortable under the presence of a preceptor who condones and advocates racist sentiments? What will Imai’s oversight do to protect them?

Nothing has changed. And nothing will change until students’ needs are truly acknowledged by the Government department through decisive action. What they offered instead was a “sorry your feelings got hurt.” They can keep it; students don’t want it.

The only way for the Government department to wholeheartedly condemn Kane’s alleged moral failings would be to remove him from his position, demonstrating a complete intolerance for his racist views. Their current failure to do so serves as a tacit legitimization of the sentiments on Kane’s blog. That harms the well-being of Black and other nonwhite students who already struggle disproportionately with feeling like they belong within Harvard’s gates. And it sends a damaging message to academia more broadly about what academic institutions should tolerate in their pedagogues.

And this isn’t the first time that the Government department has failed its students. In 2018, The Chronicle of Higher Education revealed that Government professor Jorge I. Dominguez had been allowed to harass female colleagues and students for decades. Harvard knew in the 1980s. A year later students were still calling for an external review. A climate survey in early 2019 showed that a third of female students and faculty in the department felt that they were “limited” by their gender.

The toxic culture that has been cultivated within the department is deeply concerning and the recent events are only the latest reminder that students who are seeking a supportive and nurturing learning environment ought to consider looking elsewhere.

So we reiterate: Fire David Kane.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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