A little over a week after his decision to deny a human rights pioneer a fellowship at the Harvard Kennedy School, Dean Douglas Elmendorf reversed course Thursday to allow Ken Roth a fellowship appointment. Roth, the former head of Human Rights Watch with decades of advocacy under his belt, was originally denied, allegedly over his criticism of the Israeli government.

In a statement, Elmendorf said he now believes he “made an error” in denying Roth the fellowship. He also sought to dispel rumors of donor influence, which arose after an article in The Nation detailed the pro-Israel stances of many of the Kennedy School’s donors.

“I am sorry that the decision inadvertently cast doubt on the mission of the School and our commitment to open debate in ways I had not intended and do not believe to be true,” Elmendorf wrote, adding that he plans on developing a faculty-driven evaluation process for fellowship appointments. “I expect [the committee] will bring greater rigor and wider consultation and that will be grounded in our deep commitment to excellence and to multiple informed perspectives.”

But Roth told GBH News Thursday afternoon that despite Elmendorf’s statement, the reversal is not enough to deter the chilling effect the ordeal could have on future academics.

“More fundamentally, I’m still worried about academic freedom, because given my three decades leading Human Rights Watch, I was able to shine a pretty intense spotlight on Dean Elmendorf’s decision,” he added. “But what about other people?”

Roth said the outpouring of support he’s received and the overwhelmingly negative response to Elmendorf’s decision made the reversal somewhat expected. Hundreds called for the dean’s resignation in an open letter to Harvard leadership signed by over 360 affiliates and 19 student organizations.

“What kind of message does that send about intellectual independence, that there's just certain lines you can't cross?” he said in an interview on GBH’s All Things Considered Wednesday, before the fellowship offer was re-extended. “This is the Kennedy School, one of the world’s foremost policy centers. ... How can you teach foreign policy without allowing free discussion of Israel — with only having a one-sided presentation, a pro-Israeli, but not a critical-of-Israel perspective?”

Roth said Elmendorf has yet to speak with him directly, both about the original decision and his reversal. Instead, he found out from friends and colleagues at the Carr Center. Nonetheless, he told GBH News that he will indeed accept the fellowship and “spend time at Harvard as best as [he] can.”

“I’m still hoping that there will be a broader statement of principle coming from Harvard or the Kennedy School or both that makes clear that criticism of Israel is never a justified reason for penalizing scholars or students,” Roth said. “That’s what we really need now to make something positive out of this sorry episode.”

Arun Rath contributed reporting.