A group of academics say they are “discouraged” by the resignation of the State Department spokesman after he criticized the detention conditions of the soldier suspected of leaking classified material to WikiLeaks.

Department spokesman P.J. Crowley resigned Sunday after telling a small group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that the Pentagon's treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the alleged WikiLeaks leaker, was "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” Crowley cautioned that "nonetheless, Manning is in the right place."

On Monday, the MIT academics who heard Crowley make the remarks wrote an open letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing disappointment that he had resigned.

"In the context of an open and honest discussion in an academic institution, we were eager to hear Mr. Crowley’s views and willing to give him our opinions and advice," the letter says. "We are discouraged to find such dialogue prompting the resignation of a public official. If public officials are made to fear expressing their truthful opinions, we have laid the groundwork for ineffective, dishonest and unresponsive governance."

Manning is being held in a brig at Quantico, Va., reportedly under 23-hour lockdown in a windowless cell. He is said to have been forced to sleep naked after making a comment that he could harm himself using his underwear.