Why all of this matters: It’s about the students

I am moved everyday, emotionally and to action, by the emails I am receiving. I excerpt from an email that arrived yesterday.  Thank you to this former student for reaching out, and making painfully clear what is at stake here.

Dear Professor Theidon,

You may not remember me, but I took Memory Politics with you in the Fall of 20XX. It was a formative class for me and midway through the course I declared my concentration in anthropology. I have been reading coverage of the university’s denial of your tenure. I write to say that to me, your actions serve as proof that your commitment to social justice is as real in your personal life as it is in your academic one, and that the compassion and care you showed to those in your ethnographic work does not remain in the field when you return to Cambridge.

For most of us who reach Harvard, it is the pinnacle of a life spent reading and learning, and we are supposed to be grateful and say nothing but thank you to the institution. But in my time at Harvard, I also had to learn to be a partner and a friend to women who faced their rapists in class and feared being kicked out for having mental health concerns. I ultimately lost two of these beautiful friends to suicide. I applaud your strong stance and your personal commitment to students in an academic environment where that support from a professor is rare.

My best wishes to you.

[Name withheld for privacy concerns]

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