Campus & Community

Statement regarding invitation to Tom Paulin

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The Harvard University English Department resolved on Nov. 19 to renew its invitation to Tom Paulin to give a poetry reading under the Morris Gray Lectureship. The faculty members present, constituting nearly the entire department, approved this decision with no opposing votes. There were two abstentions.

The decision earlier this month to cancel Mr. Paulin’s then-scheduled delivery of the Morris Gray Lecture on Nov. 14 was reached by mutual agreement between the members of the Morris Gray committee and Mr. Paulin, in a climate of great concern within the Harvard community on the part of faculty, students, and staff. The decision to renew the invitation has been initiated and pursued by the English Department alone. At its Nov. 19 meeting, its first meeting as a full department since the protests over Mr. Paulin’s appearance earlier this month, the Harvard English faculty carefully discussed and then resolved, without opposition, to renew the invitation on behalf of the entire department.

In making this decision, the English Department affirms its belief in the importance of free speech as a principle and practice in the academy. While we in no sense endorse the extreme statements by Mr. Paulin that have occasioned concern in the Harvard community, we support a university environment that is host to a diversity of views.

In the event that Mr. Paulin accepts our invitation, we hope that his delivery of the Morris Gray Lecture may serve as a learning occasion for us all.

Lawrence Buell
Chair, Department of English
Harvard University
November 20, 2002