HKS Lecturer Alleges Dean Elmendorf Mishandled Investigation Into Charges of Antisemitism


After Harvard Kennedy School lecturer Marshall L. Ganz ’64 faced allegations of antisemitism from three Israeli students, HKS Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf opened an investigation — a process that Elmendorf mishandled, Ganz alleged in an interview on Friday.

Ganz’s allegations come nearly a year after the start of the investigation, a process that began in April 2023 and faced criticism from two other prominent HKS faculty members.

Ganz, who is Jewish, said in an interview that the investigation was a “kangaroo court.” He alleged Elmendorf turned to an external investigator but failed to consult HKS faculty members during the fact-finding process, which Ganz said was standard procedure for such investigations.

HKS spokesperson Sofiya C. Cabalquinto disputed Ganz’s allegations in a statement, calling his description of the investigation “inaccurate.”


In spring 2023, the three students who were enrolled in Ganz’s three-week class on organizing community action submitted a proposal to organize Israelis around a shared value of a “liberal-Jewish democracy.”

Ganz, however, told the students to “reframe” their project, calling the idea of a Jewish democracy “a contradiction” because democracies include multiple ethnic or religious groups, according to Ganz’s account of the events.

Ganz described the students’ project as “inflammatory” and said it distracted from the course’s main objective, which was to learn community organizing and not discuss Middle East affairs.

The students turned down Ganz’s suggestion to adjust their project and filed a complaint in March to the Kennedy School with the Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. In April, Elmendorf launched a formal investigation into the allegations, hiring an independent investigator who interviewed Ganz and the three students.

In June, the investigator found “sufficient evidence” that Ganz had discriminated against the students on the basis of their ethnic identity — a finding that Elmendorf accepted as final.

Ganz wrote in an article published in The Nation on Feb. 1 that “the pedagogical mission in this large course, full of rich racial, national, and cultural diversity, was to enable every student to learn to organize.”

“The purpose of the course was not to debate Israel/Palestine,” he added.

Ganz alleged Elmendorf barred him from consulting lawyers during the process and criticized him for not involving faculty members in the fact-finding process.

“There is no discussion here, no discussion with any faculty,” Ganz said. “He just goes, ‘Okay, we’re going to hire an investigator.’”

Cabalquinto disputed Ganz’s allegation, writing that Elmendorf consulted “three senior faculty members to advise him on appropriate action and prevention of future incidents.”

“All parties were given the opportunity to present evidence and to review and comment on preliminary findings,” Cabalquinto wrote. “The Dean then took action responsive to the allegations.”

Several HKS professors defended Ganz and supported his criticism of Elmendorf’s investigation.

Kathryn A. Sikkink, a professor of human rights policy at HKS, wrote in a statement that she did “not believe that he should have been the subject of a formal investigation.”

“From what I understand about this case, the pedagogical decisions he made were within the realm of his expertise and his academic freedom in the classroom,” she wrote.

“We have trained staff who can help with informal processes of mediation we can use to address these issues, but to move so quickly to formal investigations creates a litigious atmosphere that is not conducive to the learning communities we are trying to create and has a chilling effect on all of us who routinely teach about complex political issues,” she added.

University Professor Danielle S. Allen, who wrote a letter to Elmendorf in support of Ganz, raised concerns over the independent investigator’s non-academic background.

“When he shared with me the report of the external investigator, I was concerned that the non-academic tasked with the review had failed to understand some of the pedagogic efforts Prof. Ganz had undertaken,” Allen wrote in a statement to The Crimson.

“It seemed important to articulate the teaching challenges involved with some precision so as to ensure that the hard work of teaching is well-understood, acknowledged, and protected,” she added.

Ganz also criticized the Kennedy School for turning to a private investigator instead of a faculty member with more experience teaching.

Cabalquinto, the HKS spokesperson, defended the investigator in a statement and called them an “experienced outside fact-finder.”

“The investigator reviewed documentary evidence and interviewed at length both the students and Professor Ganz to hear their perspectives,” Cabalquinto added.

The investigation into Ganz preceded the wave of backlash against Harvard since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

A House committee launched an investigation into antisemitism at Harvard in December. In January, six Jewish students sued the University alleging “severe and pervasive” antisemitism on campus.

Ganz said the charges of antisemitism levied against him represent a broader effort of “weaponizing antisemitism” at Harvard and beyond.

“The real problem, I think, is the way that antisemitism is being weaponized, and they tried to use it on me,” Ganz said of recent conservative-led attacks on Harvard.

“Then they started using it on Harvard,” he added. “They started using it on everybody.”

—Staff writer William C. Mao can be reached at Follow him on X @williamcmao.

—Staff writer Dhruv T. Patel can be reached at Follow him on X @dhruvtkpatel.