At a time when major American universities place a high premium on climate change studies, the Harvard Kennedy School has “successfully recruited junior faculty members focused on climate change,” HKS Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf said in an interview Wednesday.
Charles A. Taylor, a Ph.D. candidate in Sustainable Development at Columbia University, will join the Kennedy School in July 2023 upon completion of a one-year postdoctoral fellowship at UC Berkeley. Elmendorf said HKS has also offered two senior faculty members at other universities to study climate change.
In recent months, several peer agencies have taken major steps to increase their resources dedicated to studying sustainability and the climate crisis.
Columbia University established the Columbia Climate School in July 2020. Stanford University announced Wednesday that it plans to establish a new sustainability school with the help of a $1.1 billion donation. The Stanford School will launch with 90 faculty members and will focus on policies to combat climate change.
While Harvard has yet to establish its own school focused on studying climate change, Elmendorf says “developing the people and ideas to slow climate change is one of our highest priorities at the Kennedy School.”
“We want to build more courses for Kennedy School students as well as other students at the University who want to take these courses,” said Elmendorf. “We want to continue to be at the forefront of research on policies related to climate change.”
Elmendorf said the future recruitment was meant to “build the next generation of faculty members” studying climate change.
“They are leaders and will be leaders for decades to come,” he said. “A leader in thinking about the consequences of climate change, and practical ways to slow climate change.”
“We see this as a very important part of building school capacity to help our students — and students around the University — to learn more, and progress, and become more effective advocates for policy developers that will slow climate change,” Elmendorf added. .
Elmendorf said the Kennedy School’s initiatives related to climate change “are closely coordinated with work elsewhere around the University.”
“So I think you might hear of the University’s broader plans at some point as well,” he added.
Elmendorf said the Kennedy School was also trying to hire a faculty member who studied in China “given the growing importance of China’s role in the world.”
During the interview, Elmendorf also spoke about the weekly Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine protest against retired Israeli Defense Force general Amos Yadlin, who served as a senior fellow in the Belfer Center’s Middle East Initiative this semester.
Elmendorf admits that guests like Yadlin, who are invited through the Middle East Initiative, “often elicit negative comments from some people, and sometimes lead to protests from people.”
But he said the Kennedy School had “invited people with different views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from time to time.”
Nadine Bahour ’22, a Palestinian student who participated in the protests, voiced concern that different perspectives were not given the same platform.
“I think all votes must be represented, that’s what HKS is fighting for,” said Bahour. “But I haven’t witnessed in the four years I’ve been here an equal representation of Palestinian and Israeli voices and perspectives on the Kennedy School campus.”
Joseph G. Leone, a sophomore at the Kennedy School who participated in the protests, said Yadlin’s invitation to HKS as a senior colleague “disturbed” him because of his role in the Israeli military.
“There is a difference between a knowledgeable historian or political scientist vs someone who is an active participant and advocates violence against civilians, which constitutes a war crime,” he said.
In an interview following his first study group in the semester in February, Yadlin said he was proud to “defend Israel from those who want to destroy it.”
“Everything I have done in my service complies with international law,” he said.
Leone also said he believed the location of the Yadlin study group was changed after the initial demonstration in the school’s efforts to “prevent protests.”
“I think they moved it somewhere where the protesters couldn’t show up, couldn’t make their voices heard,” he added.
Elmendorf said in an interview Wednesday that the study group was moved after concerns arose “that the original physical configuration allowed the protesters to actually disrupt the study group.”
“We were able to identify other locations where the disturbance could not occur, but the protesters could still be at the school and carry out their protest,” Elmendorf added. “And that seems like a better way to achieve our dual goal here.”
—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MHerszenhorn.