Dear students,

Some members of the Harvard community have expressed concerns regarding the upcoming Social Transformation Conference, taking place on April 1-2, 2011. There are concerns that this student-produced and facilitated conference may be promoting negative sentiment toward specific groups.

The Harvard Extension Student Association (HESA) does not endorse the views of any particular club and does not have final authority to approve or restrict student club events. As members of the Harvard community, students and student clubs are afforded both the right and independence to engage in an open and free exchange of ideas. We have been assured by the student organizers that this conference is not intended to foster enmity toward any group, and even if the conference were viewed as such, Harvard maintains the policy of student independence for such discussion.

We have conferred with the Dean of Students Office, the Harvard Extension administration and Harvard University to confirm that HESLS has remained consistent with university guidelines. In addition, HESA President Philip Harding is working in coordination with HESLS and other concerned Harvard student groups to facilitate a round table meeting in order to foster positive discussion moving forward.

Harvard Extension Student Association

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HESLS conference organizers have released an independent statement:

The Harvard Extension Service & Leadership Society (HESLS) is hosting a Social Transformation Conference on April 1-2, 2011.  The theme of the conference is Social Transformation by the Power of God.  This is a faith-based event and our speaker line-up includes faith-based leaders from Christian and traditional Jewish backgrounds.  While there has been overwhelming positive reaction about the conference, we have also received some negative feedback.  This conference is focused not on drawing lines of division, but on providing an opportunity for students and the community at large to explore how we can transform or improve our society. We have been assured by our speakers that they have not supported any hatred directed towards any group, and that allegations to the contrary are untrue and/or misinterpreted.

Harvard University has always been a center of informed debate, free speech and academic freedom.  This campus has embraced intellectual diversity by inviting speakers representing a wide range of opinions and beliefs.  Accordingly, HESLS programs are wide-ranging in topic and planned collaboratively by a diverse team of students. We have hosted or helped to organize events including those focused on negotiation, leadership, entrepreneurship, conflict resolution, international relations, public service, and debates on opposing ideologies. This conference will address how we can leverage our faith and related principles to create passion and drive to do good in our world.   It’s about social transformation, social entrepreneurship, socially responsible business, faith in the workplace, and about clarifying our mission and purpose in life.

We look forward to a successful event and hope to see many of you there.

Sincerely,

Harvard Extension Service & Leadership Society (HESLS)
Website: Socialtransformation2011.org
Email: socialtransformation@gmail.com

15 Comments, RSS

  • David Broadbent

    says on:
    March 16, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    Please examine this claim from the organizers of this event; ” We have been assured by our speakers that they have not supported any hatred directed towards any group, and that allegations to the contrary are untrue and/or misinterpreted.”

    This claim is at odds with the documented expression made by several speakers. Is there not a commandment about lying?

  • Ken Vedaa

    says on:
    March 24, 2011 at 2:02 am

    While this event may well stay within the borders of being allowed by the administration of HES and HU, it is obviously quite embarrassing. I wish to point out that neither Philip Harding (President of HESA) or the married couple Andre & Natalie Bisasor that seem to make up the majority of “Harvard Extension Service & Leadership Society” have been willing to sign their names to the statements that they have crafted regarding this poorly thought out event.

    Mr. & Mrs. Bisaor appear to be the primary group responsible for bringing this train wreck into being, although it seems that they have worked hard to remove their own names. Despite finding their own event to be too objectionable to affiliate their own names with, they have been sure to place the Harvard Extension School shield prominently on the advertisements.

    Perhaps this is an effort to disquse the fact that this is not an event that has been called for by either Harvard University or Harvard Extension School. Instead it is an event put together by a small cowardly group that is not large enough to field a basketball team.

  • Ian Lamont

    says on:
    March 26, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    “We have been assured by our speakers that they have not supported any hatred directed towards any group, and that allegations to the contrary are untrue and/or misinterpreted.”

    I invite the members of the HESLS club to take a look at the video of the speakers’ past speeches (including those speeches following the themes of the upcoming Harvard conference) and say with a straight face that they don’t support hatred toward other groups.

    Also, why aren’t the organizers of the leadership conference clearly identifying themselves and standing behind their pronouncements?

    Ian Lamont
    ALM ’08

  • Susan Sivitz

    says on:
    March 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    This is completely unacceptable. How dare you hijack Harvard University, the Harvard Extension School and the HESA for your radical hatred?

  • Michael Moniz

    says on:
    March 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    I find the claim by the HESLS that, “We have been assured by our speakers that they have not supported any hatred directed towards any group, and that allegations to the contrary are untrue and/or misinterpreted.” objectionable as it both minimizes the very real concerns that have already been raised, as well as being untrue. As has been pointed out above, the writings, videos and audio of these speakers is freely available online–hence “misrepresenting” them becomes unnecessary.

    Moreover, the statement of the president that he is attempting to convene a roundtable discussion with “other concerned Harvard student groups”. I would like to know how many other Extension students are expected at this meeting–other than the representatives of the HESLS… Is this not the Extension student association?

  • Darla

    says on:
    March 31, 2011 at 9:34 am

    We should all be able to choose a belief system that works for us as individuals and not have one forced upon us. We have diversity in our country for a reason! How dare anyone think they can make a decision for all people???

  • Philip Harding

    says on:
    April 1, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Hello Everyone,

    Last night the conference organizers (HESLS) met with student leaders from the Queer Student and Allies (QSA) and Harvard Islamic Society at the Harvard Foundation. The discourse was very positive. Several concerns about the conference and speakers were were discussed and clarified. The groups are currently working on a joint statement and tickets were offered to the Queer and Islam student leaders – they accepted the offer and are planning to attend. The LGBT students were also planning to reach out to some of the protesting groups to share an update from the meeting.

    - Philip H. HESA President

  • Fazle

    says on:
    April 2, 2011 at 3:23 am

    “I wish to point out that neither Philip Harding (President of HESA) or the married couple Andre & Natalie Bisasor that seem to make up the majority of ‘Harvard Extension Service & Leadership Society’ have been willing to sign their names to the statements that they have crafted regarding this poorly thought out event.”

    Phillip, If the above comment by Ken Vedaa (Mar 24) is correct, I am ashamed and sadden to have you as our student body president. Not because you have brought controversial speakers to the campus–that takes courage; but because you have used a deceptive approach, misleading title, and become an instrument of bigotry. You own yourself a major apology for trying to deceive us.

  • Fazle

    says on:
    April 2, 2011 at 3:33 am

    “I wish to point out that neither Philip Harding (President of HESA) or the married couple Andre & Natalie Bisasor that seem to make up the majority of ‘Harvard Extension Service & Leadership Society’ have been willing to sign their names to the statements that they have crafted regarding this poorly thought out event.”

    Phillip, If the above comment by Ken Vedaa (Mar 24) is correct, I am ashamed and sadden to have you representing us. Bringing controversial speakers to the campus takes courage and it must be done openly. You became a part of misleading statements and captions. Deception does not have a place here. You own yourself a major apology for trying to mislead us instead of being forthcoming.

  • Fazle, J.D.

    says on:
    April 2, 2011 at 3:54 am

    HESAConnect.org asked me moderate my first comments that was critical of HESA President Phillip Harding, a “Public Figure.” After I submitted my second somewhat less critical comments of our student body president, HESAConnect.org and refused to publish my comments stating that, “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    Censorship is alive and prevalent at HESAConnect.org will make a good story in other media outlets.

  • Fazle Quadri, J.D.

    says on:
    April 2, 2011 at 4:10 am

    Dear Sir or Madam,

    I am an ALM student at Harvard Extension School on career break from law-practice.

    HESAConnect.org has refused to to publish two of my comments that were critical of HESA President Phillip Harding. who is a “Public Figure” and then a third comment wherein I wrote that HESAConnect.org is exercising in censorship.

    Best Regards,
    –Faz

  • Fred Van Vliet

    says on:
    April 4, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    I propose that all the critics of the Harvard “Social Transformation” publish the extent of their efforts to transform the world by their own benevolent actions, such as feeding the hungry, advocating for abused children, resisting murderous regimes, etc. That is where the dynamics of the “Social Transformation” hit the pavement with their feet running.

    All this verbal rock throwing against the event and it’s organizers seems to be strangely off center, especially in one of the leading brain tanks of the world!#?*?