To the Editors of The Crimson:
Harvard students and faculty have been betrayed by the Kennedy School of Government. The Kennedy School recently retracted its support for a necessary but banal proposal to encourage openly gay and lesbian faculty and students to come to the school after the administration was confronted with hysterical applicants and donors who criticized the initiative.
According to a February 27 article in The Boston Globe, the Kennedy School endorsed an initiative to recruit gay and lesbian faculty and students as a response to the perceived homophobia of institutions like Harvard, which keeps many people either in the closet or outside of the admissions and hiring processes altogether.
On the day that The Globe ran the story on the proposal, a number of applicants and donors called to notify the University that they generally disliked the idea of recruiting gay men and lesbians. Some of the callers mistakenly believed that the Kennedy School was about to support affirmative action based on sexual orientation. While not all of the responses to the Globe article were critical or misinformed, a sufficient number of people threatened to withdraw their applications or financial contributions to send the University in a frenzy.
Rather than explaining the differences between recruitment (encouraging people to come to Harvard) and affirmative action (giving preferential treatment to candidates based on sexual orientation), the Kennedy School issued a statement the next day retracting its support for the proposal to reach out to members of the gay and lesbian community who presently do not consider the Kennedy School an option.
Diversity has been a hot topic at all of Harvard's schools, where students have noted that issues relating to race, gender and sexual orientation do not get adequately covered, in part because the faculty capable of teaching them are often here in such desperately small numbers.
According to a recent Globe editorial, if the Kennedy School had had a policy of actively recruiting gay and lesbian students in place when former Gov. Michael S. Dukakis had been teaching there, "the Dukakis administration wouldn't have had so much difficulty with the issue of gay foster parents or with making an aggressive effort to promote the use of condoms to combat AIDS."
The Kennedy School has sent a clear message to the gay and lesbian community and to all supporters of diversity: it cares more about what the homophobes think than about Harvard University's real educational needs and the needs of the communities its graduates serve.
We have a message for the Kennedy School: We will not accept this kind of cowardice. We expect the Kennedy School to reaffirm its support to encourage gay and lesbian faculty and students to bring their backgrounds and interests to Harvard. Morris Ratner HLS Coalition for Civil Rights Charlie Flatt '92 and Sheila Allen '93 Harvard College BGLSA and five other leaders of gay and lesbian groups from Harvard's graduate schools
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