Nearly 35,000 people have signed an online petition urging Harvard President Drew Faust to deny former Mexican President Felipe Calderón a Harvard Kennedy School fellowship. And today, those signatures were delivered to the University by Border Patrol Agent John Randolph and Mexican citizen Eduardo Cortes.
At the end of November, the Harvard Kennedy School announced Calderón, an alum, would be moving to Cambridge come January 2013 after securing a seat as the inaugural Angelopoulos Global Public Leaders Fellow. Both Randolph and Cortes immediately filed online petitions, which Change.org later combined, urging Faust to change her mind prior to Calderón’s start.
“I started [the petition] out of outrage,” said Randolph in an email to BostInno. “Calderón’s legacy is one of blood and corruption, and Harvard does not seem to care. Americans are very uninformed about the Mexican drug war, and my hope is to bring awareness to it.”
The petition references Calderón’s choice in 2006 to declare an offensive on the country’s drug cartels. The Mexican Drug War has since led to an estimated death toll ranging from 40,000 to over 100,000 people, making Calderón’s job hunt controversial.
Prior to joining the Harvard Kennedy School, Calderón spoke with officials at the University of Texas Austin to inquire about a potential teaching position. The news was met with outrage from the community, as well as an accompanying online petition that garnered nearly 4,000 signatures. Conversations allegedly stopped amidst protests, forcing Calderón closer to Cambridge.
Randolph claimed he and Cortes would be walked over to the Associate Dean of Public Affairs office to deliver the petition, but that he didn’t expect to meet with Faust. “Harvard has responded to me about our petition delivery requests by email only,” Randolph said, later admitting, “I don’t know how Harvard justifies making him the first Angelopoulos World Leader Fellow with that kind of blood stained legacy.”
Although Harvard has made no indication it would cut ties with Calderón, Randolph’s goal is to keep the online petition open until it has reached 100,000 signatures–“one for each of Calderón’s narco war dead.”
Calderón’s fellowship will run through December 2013. When the news broke, Calderón claimed he was “excited” about the chance to return to the School, saying in the release:
This Fellowship will be a tremendous opportunity for me to reflect upon my six years in office, to connect with scholars and students at Harvard, and to begin work on the important papers that will document the many challenges that we faced, and the policy positions that we developed during my administration.
Although we could not immediately reach Harvard for comment, one Harvard Kennedy School spokesperson assured Mother Jones this inaugural fellowship is a one-year position, “not a faculty teaching appointment.” Despite the reassurance, however, the community will continue to ask Harvard to deny Calderón.
Below are prior images of protests against Calderón.