To the Editors of the Crimson:
Regarding the tempest in a toaster oven:
Not at issue is whether there will be kosher food in the Dunster dining hall, since I have said from the beginning that I welcome anything that meets the food wishes of students.
Nor at issue is whether there will be a toaster oven for kosher use only, since House Master Liem offered to pay for one out of his private funds.
The only issue is whether Harvard money will be spent for something whose use is restricted on sectarian grounds. I oppose such an expenditure because it violates secular principles, which in my opinion are part of the foundation of a democratic society.
Cooking utensils, according to kosher law, must be used only for kosher food. Harvard funds all sorts of religious facilities, but none of the others is restricted in use on sectarian grounds. Thus Memorial Church hosts a variety of religious and non-religious activities, which do not render it unfit for Christian (or other) worship, and no one is compelled to engage in any form of religious observance in order to use it.
This appliance at Dunster Hcuse is, so far as I know, unique at Harvard. What will be next?
Since all students at Harvard must subscribe to a meal plan, should those who wish to observe kosher law support their observance privately? The answer is yes, just as parents who choose to send their children to Catholic or other parochial schools pay tuition to those schools in addition to the taxes they pay that support the public schools.
Secularism means not that religious observance is prohibited but that it is private, free from official subsidy or control. Since a diverse and integrated community is desirable at Harvard, people who observe kosher law must be able to do so in the dining hall.
That end can be accomplished, for instance by private donation, without spending Harvard money for things whose use is restricted on sectarian grounds.
"Insensitivity" is a difficult charge to prove, or to refute. So far, no one has said how I could have expressed my opinion as forcefully as I did without offending anyone. Lacking such suggestions--and I am willing to listen--I can only conclude that what is involved is not "insensitivity" but a disagreement over a matter of conscience.
It is regrettable that some students find it impossible to talk with me about this issue, or any of the other things that students normally discuss with tutors; I, for one, am willing to talk with students about any topic they choose, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and consideration.
Finally, at least one Crimson headline writer and one cartoonist have suggested that I am anti-Semitic. I regard anti-Semitism, like all forms of religious, ethnic and racial bigotry, as a crime against humanity and whoever calls me an anti-Semite will face a libel suit. Noel Ignatiev Non-resident Tutor, Dunster House