In May this year, there was a small demonstration outside Sanders Theatre at Harvard before a concert by Vladimir Spivakov and the Moscow Virtuosi. One young man inside mounted the stage and expressed a view against the Putin regime and its musical allies.
That young man, Dr Roman Torgovitsky, was arrested by campus police and subsequently banned from Harvard. For life.
Two members of the Pussy Riot group, who spent months in Putin’s prisons for peaceful protest, have taken up his cause. If you believe in freedom of thought and civil justice, you should join their protest. Here’s what they write to the Harvard President, Drew Faust:
Dear President Faust,
On September 15, the Harvard Institute of Politics kindly provided us a forum to hold a discussion with students of your university. We spoke about human rights, feminism, freedom of speech, and the fine line that separates democratic regimes from authoritarian ones.
After our lecture, we invited several participants in the discussion to join us for dinner, including Harvard University alum Roman Torgovitsky, Ph.D. While we were leaving the Harvard campus, Dr. Torgovitsky was arrested by the Harvard Police, with no explanation given.
We proceeded with the students to the Harvard University Police Department, where we learned from Roman’s friends that Harvard had banned Roman from university grounds (by issuing him an oral no-trespass order) due to the fact that on May 11, 2014, after a concert by Russian musician Vladimir Spivakov, Dr. Torgovitsky approached Spivakov on stage. There, Roman expressed to Spivakov his concern that Spivakov had signed an open letter from cultural figures in the Russian Federation supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s position on the “Ukraine question” that openly supported annexation of Crimea and further violent aggression against Ukraine. As a result, Dr. Torgovitsky was arrested and without any due process banned from coming to Harvard University for life.
It is disconcerting that Harvard University has a policy of banning some of Harvard alums engaged in non violent civil disobedience and political protest on campus without any due process, consideration by the Harvard community or even possibility to appeal such a decision to a special committee.
We hope that the prosecution of Roman Torgovitsky for attending our lecture will be halted. We would like to respectfully ask Harvard administration to lift the no-trespass order imposed on Roman Torgovitsky for life for the non-violent, peaceful expression of his opinion.
Roman Torgovitsky has many excellent and constructive suggestions to offer Harvard administration. First and foremost, it would be a great benefit for the Harvard community to institute a due process for placing no trespass order prohibiting alums from coming to the University property and create an appeal process that involves Harvard community. Second, Roman and his colleague Julia Khodor Beloborodov are spearheading a project to provide urgently needed education to Ukrainian physicians to provide physical and psychological trauma rehabilitation for thousands of Ukrainians who have been injured and scared as a result of the President Putin war in Ukraine. Harvard University could provide invaluable educational assistance in this endeavor.
We call on the Harvard administration to enter into a dialog with civil-society activists, and in particular with Roman Torgovitsky. After all, they and Harvard are pursuing the same goals: respect for human rights, peace, and education without borders.