Friday 15 February 2013

When is a university not a university? When it gains a cash-grabbing failed politician, and loses a respected academic

Héctor Vasconcelos, a well-respected Harvard professor of political science and a former ambassador from Mexico to Norway, Denmark and Iceland, as well as a former consul in Boston, has resigned his position in protest over the appointment of former Mexican president Felipe Calderón to a one year fellowship.

Vasconcelos had written on January 15, 2013 to David T. Ellwood, Dean of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, advising him that should Calderón be offered a position he would resign.

“I believe that the presence of Calderón at Harvard contradicts the values ​​of representative democracy, critical thinking, and intellectual honesty that the University promotes,” wrote Vasconcelos.

The Mexican activist and poet Javier Sicilia and Prof. Sergio Aguayo have also requested that Harvard rescind the appointment of Calderón, president of Mexico from 2006 -20012, a time during which over 60,000 people died in his “war on drugs” and the number of poor rose from 45.5 to 57 million.

When the fellowship was announced the Kennedy School didn’t mention these facts, instead crediting  Calderón, “with having boosted the nation’s economic development as a probusiness, profree market leader and having made significant reforms to the country’s environmental, immigration and health care policies.” 

However, Sicilia and Aguayo sent a letter to Harvard in which they noted that the incorporation of the former Mexican president was inconsistent with the principles of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, among them respect for the dignity of others, and taking into account the impact that policies have on people.

In response, David Ellwood defended the decision, saying that it would open opportunities for discussion and debate between the former president and students.
How much is she giving him?

Calderón’s fellowship is being underwritten by wealthy Greek diplomat Gianna Angelopoulos, who in 2012 created the Angelopoulos Global Public Leaders Fellowship program, “to retain and re-train leaders who have distinguished themselves in service to the public and are now transitioning to another career.”

How much is Angelopoulos’s program giving Calderón? No one knows, because financial figures on the fellowship have not been released. 

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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