April 25, 2011

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
We were pleased as a speaker series task force last year to announce that Greg Mortenson had agreed to be part of the "Creativity: Beyond the Box" series. The responses we received to this announcement from individuals across campus, alumni, parents and the community made clear to us that many people embraced the significance of his work and found it exciting to contemplate the opportunity to hear him speak at Bucknell. Because of this strong reaction and the intense interest that has now arisen around his work, we would like to explain why we have decided that we should no longer host him at Bucknell.
We met twice last week to discuss these matters. Our goal is to bring to campus accomplished speakers who fit the mission of the University and who can explore the subject of creativity from diverse viewpoints and fields, either as practitioners, theorists or both. We had identified Mr. Mortenson as a speaker because his work seemed to us a meaningful example of creative thinking about addressing humanitarian challenges.
But we have been troubled by the recent media reports about the veracity of Mr. Mortenson's bestselling Three Cups of Tea, the credibility of his claims about his work for children of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the possible illegalities associated with the financial management of his non-profit foundation, the Central Asia Institute. The allegations against him cut to the essence of his work — whether he has done what he claims he has; whether his work has been as impactful as he says it is; and whether, rather than serving the people he champions, he may in some ways have used them for his own benefit.
Given the vagueness of his responses to these matters, we have begun to doubt the credibility he might bring to the topics we had hoped he would address, and to doubt the appropriateness of his speaking at Bucknell, where academic integrity is a fundamental principle.
We also know that we would have little if any influence over how Mr. Mortenson might address the controversy facing him or if he would discuss it in a public forum. Even if his presentation became a defense against the recent allegations, that topic would hardly suit the goals of the creativity series or the discussion of his work that we sought with our invitation.

We are making this decision now with the prospect of identifying a different keynote speaker for the fall. This decision is especially regretful given the respect so many have for Mr. Mortenson and his work. We thank all those who have conveyed to us their perspective on this controversy, and hope our explanation is helpful.


The Bucknell Forum Task Force
Professors Carmen Gillespie, Beth Capaldi Evans, Paula Davis, Joe Tranquillo, Margot Vigeant and Zhiqun Zhu; Michael Davis '13 and Lindsay Machen '11; and administrators Rob Springall, Kari Conrad and Pete Mackey, chair