Carter Estes: Effort to ban Trump officials from Harvard is a dangerous attack on free speech and education

My fi

My first year at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government hasn’t been what I expected — and I’m not just talking about all the restrictions to guard against the spread of COVID-19. I couldn’t have predicted that I’d be delivering a speech to my peers urging them to uphold free speech at one of America’s most prestigious centers of learning.

Unfortunately, I recently found myself on Zoom urging members of the Harvard Kennedy School Student Government to reject a student-led effort to restrict Trump administration officials from speaking at Harvard. 

While I am relieved that the student government ultimately rejected the restrictions, I remain disturbed that my peers would propose this action and that it actually could have passed. An education underpinned by conditions of censorship is not a real education. And those who seek an education should never demand protection from ideas. 


 I came to Harvard to learn. But institutions of higher education that allow for restrictions on information and dialogue —whether imposed by students or administrators — forfeit the title of “educational institution” in exchange for the title “indoctrination center.” The latter is not what I signed up for. I want Harvard to deliver the education it claims to offer. 

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I am shocked and disappointed that some of my fellow graduate students — who surely came to one of the world’s top government affairs graduate programs to grow intellectually and professionally—would make these demands. The authors of the letter calling for banning Trump officials from campus said the reason for the ban was to, ironically, stop the “subversion of democratic principles” by the Trump administration. But free speech is a democratic principle. 

 The authors of this letter seek to cancel debate and silence political opposition. They are terrified of having their world views challenged. But that’s exactly why earnest minds have traditionally come to Harvard.

The Kennedy School has hosted many controversial figures, including members of the Clinton and Nixon administrations, former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder, and the late secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Saeb Erekat.

We students are adults and we are fully capable of hearing uncomfortable and offensive information and arguments. It will only make us better.

 I am a conservative. Harvard is an overwhelmingly liberal institution. I have only benefitted by having my ideas and values challenged while studying here. But more than that, Harvard owes it to students like me to be honest about what it claims to offer — a rigorous intellectual environment and access to top leaders.

 Whether you agree with Trump policies or not, those who served in Trump administration have firsthand knowledge and experience in the highest levels of domestic and foreign policy. These players have impacted the world and we students can decide if their marks were good or bad, and conclude the missteps for ourselves.

 But the onus is on universities to uphold their missions. They need to teach their students

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Rapid At-Home Tests Could Curb Virus Spread, Harvard and University of Colorado Researchers Find | News

Frequent administration of rapid-turnaround tests could substantially reduce COVID-19 infectiousness and curb the virus’s spread, researchers at Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Colorado at Boulder found in a new study.

While the gold-standard tests, which detect the virus using polymerase chain reaction, accurately identify infected patients, they are not highly effective for population-wide testing due to lengthy return times, according to James A. Hay, a postdoctoral researcher at the School of Public Health and one of the study’s authors.

“One of the problems with testing has been that we’ve been kind of restricting ourselves to these very sensitive PCR tests that are really not designed for mass deployment,” Hay said.

Those administering the tests should prioritize accessibility, frequency, and turnaround time over “test sensitivity” — meaning the proportion of infected individuals who test positive — according to the study, which was published November 20 in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances.

Though the rapid COVID-19 tests have less sensitivity than the gold-standard PCR tests, they bring other benefits: Some return results in 15 minutes, while PCR tests can take several days.

“That loss of sensitivity is offset by the fact that they’re very cheap to produce, they’re very easy to use, and they’re the sort of thing you can give to people to use in their homes,” Hay said.

“The key is that by testing people very frequently, you’re much more likely to catch people when they’re infectious,” Hay added.

The lower sensitivity of the rapid, at-home tests compared to standard PCR tests means patients must have higher viral loads for the test to detect the virus. But in most cases, patients do not become contagious until after the brief early period of infection, when people tend to have lower viral loads that are undetectable by the at-home tests, according to Hay.

Hay said the tests should be viewed as a transmission-limiting tool aiding public health response, rather than purely as a medical diagnostic like the standard PCR tests. In a School of Public Health press release, epidemiology professor Michael J. Mina, a senior co-author and Hay’s postdoctoral advisor, called the tests “contagiousness tests.”

“These rapid tests are contagiousness tests,” Mina said in the release. “They are extremely effective in detecting COVID-19 when people are contagious.”

Even with frequent testing via rapid COVID-19 tests, social distancing measures will remain critical, Hay said.

“Rapid testing is more a way to say, well, we can detect more positive people and earlier in their infection, and it’s for those people who test positive that they must take extra precautions to not infect other people,” Hay said. “Those are the people that we would encourage to self isolate, but it doesn’t mean that if you get a negative result that’s a free passport to do whatever you want.”

“At the population level, if we are targeting who has to self isolate much more intelligently, then we don’t need to resort to the kind of population-wide lockdowns, because we know that the

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Activists Promote Education in Prisons at Harvard Radcliffe Institute | News

Prison reform activists argued in favor of high-quality education in prisons at a webinar Thursday held by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies.

Panelists included Max Kenner, the founder of the Bard Prison Initiative, and Dyjuan Tatro, a government affairs associate at the initiative. Zelda Roland, founding director of the Yale Prison Education Initiative and Craig S. Wilder, history professor at MIT, also spoke at the webinar, which was opened by co-founder and director of the Prison Studies Project Kaia Stern and moderated by Harvard Graduate School of Education lecturer Lynette C. Tannis.

Speakers highlighted their work in educational justice and emphasized the importance of quality teaching in prisons.

“My real job and my real priority is to bring legislators to prioritize people over prisons,” Tatro, who lobbies government officials to adopt prison education reform, said.

Tannis, whose research focuses on incarcerated youth, said insufficient education in prisons sends a message that society does not value incarcerated people.

“If there’s no training, support, professional development, what you’re actually demonstrating to the youth is that we don’t value you,” Tannis said in an interview after the event. “If we valued your life, we would actually be here preparing you for the transition, hopefully, the transformation for when you return.”

Roland, who is a graduate of Yale College, said teaching in prisons made her think critically about who “Harvard and Yale imagined to be students, or leaders, or citizens.”

Wilder similarly noted that teaching incarcerated people encouraged him to expand his understanding of activism through education.

“All these people are simply students and what they needed was a teacher,” Wilder said. “And to the extent that I see myself as a teacher, I had as much an obligation to them as I do to anyone else who passes through my class.”

Wilder added that colleges and universities have an “academic obligation” to bring higher education to prisons.

“College in prison is just one step toward a more democratic society,” Wilder said.

Elite institutions, however, do not sufficiently invest in bringing high-quality education to prisons, according to Kenner.

“Education in prison should be done well,” he said. “It should be done with care — that it is a place that we should go and actually invest in people and not visit in some voyeuristic or symbolic kind of way.”

Speakers also commented on the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on prison education, during the Q&A portion of the event.

Kenner said while the pandemic encourages prisons to improve digital learning opportunities, an over-reliance on technology could erode “real human relationships” among incarcerated individuals.

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Harvard Business School Professor Jeff Bussgang On The Future Of Education

As we continue to embark on the new normal, 2020 has brought us an entirely new way that students learn. From Kindergarten to MBAs, students are immersed in distance learning, and the one unifying factor is that technology connects the classroom. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella furthered this point in his quarterly earnings call, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”

With parents spending their days muting and unmuting Zoom meetings for their grade-schoolers, we’re not fully streamlined in the processes that make remote learning seamless; however, there are many tools and platforms that empower the next generation to continue to build community and garner more applicable skills for the classroom and beyond.

To gather more insights into this digital transformation within the education sector, I went Live on LinkedIn to interview Harvard Business School Lecturer Jeff Bussgang on the platforms he is bullish on for the future of education. 

Community First

With in-person education either completely non-existent or a hybrid model, students still need camaraderie and that feeling of community. Students of all ages are focusing on STEM education to garner additional job market skills. The free online coding platform, Codeacademey, has found exponential growth as schools are adopting the curriculum into their classroom. Investor Tareq Hawasli of London-based Darin Partners notes, “Codeacademy’s global reach is particularly appealing as the world’s universal language has shifted from English to code.” Jeff further expands on this notion, “Codeacademey built a native online platform, a browser-based learning environment, and a software development environment. Most importantly, they built a community of learners that could help each other create lesson plans for coaching and mentoring. It’s not only an online school but an online community.” 

Global Connection

Technology levels the playing field as it allows for global interaction helps students learn important skills. Open English has had an incredible impact in the Latinx community empowering Spanish-speaking students to learn English. There are three pillars on their platform which include: speaking with North American teachers, live classes where you chat about fun topics, and innovative tools that help with your pronunciation and grammar. Jeff expands, “With in-person language schools like Berlitz closed, Open English has been able to support English learning so that students don’t fall behind in their curriculum. And, it’s interactive and personal which makes language learning fun.”

Democratizing Education

Increasing access to high-quality education for everyone, everywhere, is edX’s mission. Jeff sits on the Board of Directors for the non-profit, which is a joint venture between Harvard and MIT. He shares, “edX is transforming traditional education, removing the barriers of cost, location, and access. During these times, there’s been a surge of online activity, and their world-class course library has really been embraced globally.” There are over 2500 courses from 140 top-tier institutions, including Harvard, MIT, UC Berkeley, and Brown University to support students throughout

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