Don’t Neglect Student Voices, Keep Steve Jarding


ProfessorJardinAdam LaRose and Erika Ferguson

The first time we sat in Steve Jarding’s course, we were very inspired by his appeal to the class; he offered a moving story about why we and our fellow classmates should accept the most demanding call to public service: running for office. He was not shy about the fact that he had seen and been part of campaigns where politicians had to sacrifice their privacy, their family time, and often, their finances, in the hopes of making a difference in people’s lives through public policy. As the class continued on throughout the semester, Professor Jarding painted a vivid picture of what we would face, what it would take, and the barriers we would encounter. But just as much as he taught us about media training, campaign management, public speaking, and politics, what he really did was make us believe that we could accomplish amazing things at the highest levels of government, for the betterment of our respective countries.

Each day we spent with Professor Jarding as students, we gained more respect for his commitment to the individuals who are lucky enough to take his class. We received one-on-one media training and consultation with one of the renowned media and campaign consultants in the world; not once, but twice. We were evaluated in a public campaign debate by Steve and two political journalists from Washington, D.C. on what we had learned throughout the course. We received immediate feedback after a TV interview in HKS’s studio room. And most importantly, we gained the belief in ourselves that we could run for right reasons.

Needless to say, we had no idea that these courses we took in the Fall of 2014 and Spring of 2015 respectively, were going to be one of the most influential we have ever taken. And we are certainly not alone: His ‘Making of a Politician’ course has twice been nominated as the ‘Most Influential Course’ award by HKS’ Strengthening Learning and Teaching Excellence Initiative. Jarding’s signature course is one of the most demanded at HKS, consistently going to bidding, and his over subscription rate routinely beckons bigger lecture halls and more capacity. In addition, his course evaluations are easily among the highest rated at HKS and in the Harvard community. Over the last four years his average course evaluation rating is 4.58; comparable to that of Heifetz’s ‘Exercising Leadership’ and Timothy McCarthy’s ‘Arts of Communication’ courses.

We have been very fortunate to not only take Professor Jarding’s courses, but to be privy to seeing how much work and investment he puts into making them happen. As course assistants for the ‘Making of a Politician’ course for the last two semesters, we have watched Steve put in countless hours on nights and weekends, at home and abroad, at HKS and surrounding schools, to make sure his students are adequately prepared for public service, in whatever sector they so choose. Steve individually grades, consults, and critiques every aspect of an enrollees curriculum; he volunteers to aid with seminars and simulations; and he goes out of his way to make sure we have opportunities to build on our training outside of the classroom. In this semester alone, Steve has accepted and allowed over 20 auditors to receive individualized feedback for two separate rounds of speeches and interviews and he even volunteered to host a debate for them out of his own time.

However, Professor Jarding’s future role at HKS is in question. The administration has put him in a position to either be forced to leave HKS entirely, or change his status at the university—thereby limiting his ability to gain expertise as a practitioner in the field of communication and politics. Because his career outside of the classroom adds so much to his courses through both anecdotes and up-to-date know-how, limiting his ability to consult on campaigns, both domestically and internationally, would also force him to have to leave Harvard next year. Neither of these options allows future HKS students to learn from one of the most highly-rated and acclaimed professors at HKS.

Steve’s record speaks for itself, and there are over 100 current and former students of Professor Jarding who are asking the new Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School to keep him in his current role as a term lecturer.

We are writing to you as fellow members of the Harvard community, but more importantly, as concerned students, course assistants, and dear friends of Steve Jarding. While this is an issue that affects a man who we admire and believe in, there is more to this than just his potential departure next year: the neglect of student voices. It is very clear that Professor Jarding is wanted by the students in his current capacity, and for years to come. The numbers, facts, and figures speak to this demand, and arguably, this need.

It is therefore, essential that the HKS administration allow Professor Jarding to stay on as a Term Lecturer, as he served in this position for the past 13 years.

We need your help.

Please join us in supporting Professor Steve Jarding by signing the petition at http://bit.ly/1WQkvgE and your stories to Dean Doug Elmendorf (Doug_Elmendorf@hks.harvard.edu).

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