Incoming CNN president Jeff Zucker pushed for progressive reforms at Harvard

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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Incoming CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker advocated for progressive actions by the Harvard University administration while an undergraduate writer for the Harvard Crimson, records reveal, raising more questions about the political beliefs Zucker might bring to CNN.

In his capacity as Harvard Crimson president, Zucker wrote a January 29, 1986 op-ed for the student publication listing both his criticisms and points of praise for different actions of the Harvard administration.

In the opinion piece, Zucker complimented Harvard for forcing the controversial resignation of a professor based on a claim of sexual harassment. He also derided Harvard’s all-male final clubs as “elitist” and “sexist,” praised the university’s sweeping anti-discrimination policy, and demanded that the school hire more female and minority teachers.

Zucker praised the “tremendous strides” that Harvard had then recently made, including securing the “historic resignation of a tenured professor” accused of sexual harassment.

“The resignation of Professor of Government Douglas A. Hibbs Jr. marked both the first time ever that a tenured Harvard professor — whose job is usually guaranteed until at least age 70 — resigned over allegations of sexual harassment and the first time the University had officially confirmed that action had been taken on a specific case of harassment,” Zucker wrote.

“The step, though understandably clouded in secrecy, differed markedly from the way Harvard handled previous allegations of sexual harassment, when it refused to discuss the matter publicly. This time, Harvard proved its willingness not to tolerate such behavior by securing Hibbs’s resignation,” Zucker wrote.

“The University’s ability to remove Hibbs from a position of authority sent a reassuring message to the Harvard community and a stern warning to the faculty that times have changed,” Zucker wrote.

Though Hibbs resigned under pressure, he never publicly admitted his guilt. His one reported case of alleged sexual harassment occurred off-campus while teaching a course at MIT. The details of the incident were never revealed to the student body, or to the Crimson staff.

Hibbs’ fellow Harvard professors raised doubt about Hibbs’ guilt in a Feb. 6, 1985 New York Times article, citing the growing phenomenon of sexual harassment reports being filed around that time.

“One (professor) said there was widespread controversy in the department over the sexual harassment problem,” according to the Times.

“While his department had set up a counseling systems for students who complain of harassment, the professor said he was concerned that Harvard’s definition of sexual harassment might be too broad and that its requirements for keeping names and facts secret in sexual harassment cases might be too strict. ‘Now you can get in trouble for a wink or a smile,’ he said,” according to the Times.

Zucker’s op-ed also praised Harvard for cutting ties with its nine all-male “final clubs” in July 1985.

“Though largely symbolic, the move seemed to demonstrate the University’s desire to provide equal opportunities for all,” Zucker wrote. “Harvard won’t miss its affiliation with the clubs either. After years of pressure, the University moved in the right direction by breaking its ties with the elitist and sexist clubs.”

Zucker’s op-ed further praised the university’s activist decisions.

“Also in July, after years of prodding and pressure from a variety of organizations, the Harvard Corporation reversed its position on the need for a sweeping University-wide anti-discrimination policy,” Zucker wrote.

“The University’s recent actions regarding sexual harassment, final clubs and discrimination — which each dealt with the most fundamental questions of equal rights and equal access — prove that this place is capable of change, capable of solving those problems that do still exist,” Zucker wrote.

Still Zucker was not completely satisfied with the extent of Harvard’s progressive reforms.

“There are a variety of issues — both social and academic — that Harvard must continue to combat. It must solve the questions associated with its South African investments. It must answer problems of race relations on campus, problems that often have been addressed but never answered. It must make the same commitment Yale made a year ago to boost the number of women and minorities on the faculty,” Zucker wrote.

Zucker’s political orientation has been the subject of discussion in the past. The Daily Caller pointed out last Wednesday that MSNBC grew into a partisan left-wing outlet during Zucker’s tenure as CEO of NBCUniversal.

CNN did not return a request for comment.

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