PBS Program Focuses on PC
Sunday Night Airing Reignites Controversies Over Peninsula
Editor's Note: Due to a computer error, a large portion of this story, reprinted here in its entirety, did not run in Monday's Crimson. The Crimson regrets the error.
A PBS documentary aired locally Sunday night has reintroduced old controversies surrounding a two-year-old Peninsula issue that denounced homosexuality.
"Campus Cultural Wars: Five Stories About PC," produced by John B. Prizer Jr. '61 and narrated by Lindsay A. Crouse `70, related several recent incidents during which free speech and political correctness collided on university campuses.
The Harvard segment featured members of the staff of Peninsula, Harvard's conservative monthly, describing what they say is an atmosphere of political correctness that precludes them from expressing their traditional Christian beliefs.
"Those who uphold traditional moral values consider themselves under siege at Harvard," Crouse narrates.
The documentary also includes the responses of students and University officals to Peninsula's attack on homosexuality.
It shows footage of a rally held in response to Peninsula on the steps of Memorial Church, where Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III declared the Peninsula issue "hate speech" and the Rev. Peter J. Gomes, the minister of Memorial Church, told the gathered audience that he was gay.
Also presented in the documentary are comments from Peninsula staff, gay students, Epps, and Law School Professor Alan M. Dershowitz.
"I think [the documentary] is an essentially fair representation of the events," said Christopher B. Brown '94, a senior council member at Peninsula who appeared on the program. "One of the most important points was the way in which college administrators use intimidation tactics to promote the politically correct point of view... it's clear that it creates a very chilly atmosphere on campus."
But in an interview Sunday night, Dennis K. Lin '93-'94, co-chair of Harvard's Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian Association (BGLSA), said he disagrees with Peninsula's characterization of the program, calling it "biased toward conservatives." BGLSA, not Peninsula, were the victims of the incident, Lin said.
Lin also disagreed with Peninsula's depiction of the administrative response.
"Harvard does not believe in discrimination, so I think they acted in an appropriate manner, both on moral and technical grounds," Lin said. "We reacted to what they said with the rally...of course they have the right to express their views."
"Maybe if they feel persecuted or in the minority, they will be able to relate to our feelings in a homophobic society," Lin added.
Lin said the events of two years ago, depicted in the program, have helped to invigorate the movement for gay rights on campus.
"After the Peninsula articles, some people were disillusioned, some were angered, others were motivated by it," Lin said.
Rachel Tiven '96, a staff member of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual magazine HQ, which was founded in response to the publication of Peninsula, called the administrative reaction two years ago a proper commitment to free speech.
"Harvard deserves a lot of credit for not having a speech code," she said. "I can understand how more conservative members of the community would feel in the minority, but I don't think it's accurate to call them oppressed."
But members of Peninsula said that November 1991 has had little effect on campus. The members charge that the University's policies toward liberal groups remain much more lenient thant toward their conservative counterparts.
In the wake of the most recent round of publicity, Wasinger stressed that Peninsula's objectives have not changed.
"Peninsula's mission has always been to tell the truth," he said, "whether people want to hear it or not."