Faust says integrity key at Harvard

President speaks on controversies

By Tracy Jan
Globe Staff / September 22, 2010

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Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust spoke publicly yesterday about two recent campus controversies, expressing her disappointment in a prominent psychologist found to have engaged in scientific misconduct as well as a former university lecturer whose anti-Muslim sentiments have sparked objections from around the world.

Faust chose her words carefully during a wide-ranging interview with former ABC correspondent Charlie Gibson, currently at Harvard on a fellowship. The discussion, billed as a start-of-the-school year address, was held at Sanders Theatre and broadcast over the Internet.

In response to Gibson’s question about why Marc Hauser remained on the faculty even after the university found him guilty of eight instances of scientific misconduct, Faust said Harvard is addressing the issue.

“Integrity is absolutely fundamental in everything we do,’’ Faust said. “We have a process we have undertaken, and that process still has some part to continue because it involves federal funds.’’ Cases of scientific misconduct could result in a loss of tenure, Faust said.

Gibson said the silence from the university has been “somewhat deafening,’’ and raised the possibility that the lack of response could call into question Harvard’s research integrity and have financial implications.

But Faust replied that Harvard has moved to depart somewhat from its normally confidential proceedings, in order to correct the scientific record, though it remains mindful of ongoing federal investigations.

“Announcing that there were indeed findings, that was unprecedented,’’ she said.

Harvard officials said last month that Hauser was found responsible for misconduct involving three published papers and five additional experiments, following a Globe report on the university’s three-year investigation. Hauser is now on a year’s leave and is expected to return to teaching in July 2011, though faculty in many departments are questioning whether he should be allowed to remain.

Faust also addressed the recent uproar, both inside and outside Harvard, over New Republic editor Martin Peretz’s blog post that called Muslim life “cheap’’ and questioned whether Muslims should be afforded constitutional freedoms. Peretz, who has apologized for some of his comments, is scheduled to be honored Saturday with an undergraduate research fund in his name as part of a celebration marking the 50th anniversary of Harvard’s social studies major.

Gibson asked Faust why Harvard would honor “a man with such opinions.’’

Faust acknowledged that the comments were “very hurtful’’ to the Harvard community and were “very much at odds’’ with the university’s values. The university, however, will accept the undergraduate research gift, more than $500,000 raised by Peretz’s former students and others, despite protests.

The gift, she said, was a way for former students to contribute to research while recognizing the importance of engaged teaching — something Faust said seems to be an “entirely appropriate basis for a donor gift.’’

Last night the social studies program issued a statement that Peretz will be one of 10 people recognized at Saturday’s luncheon and will speak as part of the programming. Program officials, though, said Peretz’s blog post is the “diametric opposite of what we in the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies stand for.’’

Peretz has agreed to come to Harvard at a later date to “explain his true views to an undergraduate audience,’’ the statement said. And the research fund in his name will support undergraduates studying intercultural understanding and inequality, among other topics.

Sam Sternin, a 2001 graduate who has organized a petition, said the university’s response is inadequate. More than 550 alumni and faculty have signed the petition asking Harvard to turn down the funds because of its association with bigotry, Sternin said.

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