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Dozens of Student Editors for Harvard Kennedy School Policy Journals Call on Dean to Reinstate Their Publications

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Dozens of students affiliated with the Harvard Kennedy School’s student-run policy journals signed on to an open letter last week calling on HKS Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf to reinstate 14 student policy journals as independent student organizations.

The open letter, signed by 31 HKS students and former students, comes just weeks after the HKS Shorenstein Center announced the elimination of student-run individual policy journals, which will be consolidated under a single “HKS Student Policy Review.”

HKS spokesperson Sofiya C. Cabalquinto declined to confirm whether Elmendorf had read the letter.

The letter states that the decision to merge the student journals was made “unilaterally, without opportunity for notice or comment from the undersigned journal leadership, or from students or alumni more broadly.”

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Students first learned of the decision to dissolve individual publications and consolidate them under a single title on Aug. 1.

Laura Manley, the executive director of the Shorenstein Center, said in an interview that the letter’s version of events is distorted.

“We’ve heard from many other students who actually strongly advocated for change — and I have in quotes from email — ‘How the journals currently operate is wasteful and collaborative and results in low readership. Our general process needs reform. The journals operate like wasteful, disjointed class projects that no one reads,’ and that’s from a student that participated this past year,” Manley said.

Manley added that she heard similar complaints across dozens of meetings and student emails throughout the last few years.

“Everyone that has come to us complaining about this has cited that the current structure was not facilitating impact,” she said. “So we had so many conversations, we had interviews, we had one on ones, we had group meetings.”

“It just was not the case that we unilaterally made this decision.”

The open letter voices distrust in the Shorenstein Center and its governance, calling for the reinstatement of the policy journals as independent student organizations.

“Shorenstein’s latest action is the culmination of a year of their unprofessional and ineffective governance of student journals,” the letter stated. “Shorenstein prevented all journals from accessing our existing funds—totalling dozens of thousands of dollars—and stripped us of our print publishing capabilities.”

Manley disputed both charges, noting that while there was a short pause in publishing, it lasted only about a week and a half while the new website underwent maintenance — briefly preventing students from logging on and accessing funds through the website.

This information was relayed to students during a policy journal meeting along with information about a form to request funding, Manley added.

“There is no world where we block access to funding ever, ever,” Manley said.

In the letter, the students also expressed concerns over the editorial independence of the new HKS Student Policy Review, citing a handbook policy that would allow the Shorenstein Center to “delay or withhold publication of any content if there are concerns about submissions.”

“Shorenstein’s proposed change raises serious issues of editorial independence,” the letter reads. “This policy strips students of decision-making authority and concedes final content approval decisions to Shorenstein, not student editors.”

In response, Manley said there has been no change in the editorial process or in the level of independence of the policy journals.

It remains the complete responsibility of student editors to make decisions about what should and should not be published, she said — though Shorenstein faculty advisors will review the journal before publication to make sure there is no plagiarism or defamation.

The letter also expresses concerns about the consolidation’s impact on the diversity of coverage by the Kennedy School’s student policy journals, noting that many of the now-eliminated publications focused on underrepresented groups.

“This decision, if left standing, would unceremoniously end several decades of continuous succession and student leadership for our journals — the vast majority of which are dedicated to issues facing BIPOC and otherwise marginalized communities,” the letter stated.

Manley said, however, that the previous policy journal system excluded more than two-thirds of the world’s population and that the way to expand inclusion is to create one consolidated journal.

“Our greatest concern is actually to make sure that any student regardless of their identity, regardless of their hometown, or their interests, can participate in a journal that doesn’t make them feel excluded about whether or not you can get enough students together to build a student journal,” she said.

Harvard Kennedy School Review Editor-in-Chief Sly Yushchyshyn wrote in a statement that the decision to ask for reinstatement as independent student organizations is “totally necessary.”

“We strongly felt that the voice of student journals wasn’t being heard,” Yushchyshyn said. “Student engagement and input didn’t seem to be a priority of the Shorenstein Center.”

“If the Dean wants to say that the student journals are student organizations, he is more than welcome to,” Manley said. “We will continue providing opportunities to students as a research center at the Kennedy School for any students that are interested.”

—Staff writer Asher J. Montgomery can be reached at asher.montgomery@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @asherjmont or on Threads @asher_montgomery.

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