In the wake of criticism last month for displaying anti-gay posters without College authorization, the Association Against Learning in the Absence of Religion and Morality (AALARM) has obtained recognition from Harvard.
Founded in 1991, AALARM has a tradition of outspoken promotion of conservative moral values. For the last two years, the group did not seek official recognition, Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III said yesterday.
According to AALARM President Tung Q. Le '96, the group strives to alert members of the student body to moral issues.
The group is opposed to "abortion and homosexuality and any other evil countenanced by the University," Le said yesterday.
Several AALARM members said yesterday that the group represents silent conservatives at Harvard.
"We feel that there are a lot of important moral issues that don't get any discussion or token discussion on this campus," said Treasurer Brian E. Malone '96. "And yet we feel that there are a lot of students on this campus who feel differently from the dominant liberal viewpoint, students from religious and traditionally moral backgrounds."
"It's basically a group of conservative Christian people, and that's basically it," said former AALARM president Randy A. Karger '98, who is now a member of the club's Presidential Council. "If there's an issue in which we want to make our views known, I think it basically serves as a forum for that."
Karger said one such issue is a link between the AIDS epidemic and homosexual sex.
AALARM initiated a postering campaign last month during National Coming Out Week. The posters read: "AIDS: Sodomy=Death." In response, the Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Student Association (BGLSA) posted pink fliers reading "AALARM: Hatred=Death."
AALARM was heavily criticized for the posters, partially because the group was not officially recognized by the College and was therefore not allowed to poster on campus.
Following the campaign, the group filed the necessary forms, Malone said.
AALARM received recognition within the last month, according to Epps. But several of the group's executives, including Karger and Malone, said they only learned of AALARM's recognition upon being contacted by The Crimson yesterday.
As a result, most AALARM members interviewed said the group's plans for the future are uncertain.
Members said they would like to have a campus-wide meeting before Christmas break, but they said they were not sure what specific issues such a meeting would address.
Malone said the group would like to bring a speaker to campus. ("A conservative firebrand would be great," he said.)
As an official group, AALARM can poster, use Harvard's name and facilities, distribute literature on campus, apply to the Undergraduate Council for funding and table at registration.
AALARM's activities have traditionally centered on rallies and postering campaigns.
Representatives from many student groups have branded AALARM's message and tactics as hateful and inflammatory.
"I believe in free speech," said Daniela Bleichmar '96, co-director of AIDS Education and Outreach and a Crimson editor. "I disagree with bigotry and misinformation....I know those two posters [last month], those were misinformed and were bigoted."
Royce C. Lin '96, a former BGLSA co-chair, agreed.
"I think it's a good thing for the University to recognize the right of any group that wishes to speak," Lin said. "However, I think that the message that AALARM seeks to disseminate...is one that is very harmful to the general spirit of the Harvard community in that there is a message of intolerance and hate."
AALARM members defend the group's tone and tactics.
"I would say that the only reason that people would consider us inflammatory is that so many people on this campus are so far gone that messages about traditional morality seem inflammatory," Malone said.
But even Epps has objected to AALARM's tone. After the AIDS postering campaign, the dean called several members into his office to tell them that "the tone of the speech was not contributing to a civil college, and that I hoped they would help us promote tolerance toward other people," Epps said.
At that meeting, Epps assured the group that the students' rights of free speech were protected, all parties said yesterday.
Still, at least one AALARM leader said Epps may have crossed the line.
"I think to some extent it was intimidating in that he called several members of the board up and left messages on their machine expressing a wish to meet with them," said one AALARM officer, speaking on condition of anonymity. "But...he could have pressured us a lot more. And I was actually quite surprised that he didn't put more pressure on us."
A History of Activism
In the first two years of its existence, AALARM was a vocal force on campus--even if it usually found itself in the minority among activists.
In the spring of 1993, during Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Awareness Days, AALARM waged a postering campaign criticizing the gay lifestyle.
The group received publicity after Joshua L. Oppenheimer '96-'97 tore down an AALARM poster in front of Robert K. Wasinger '94, then a member of AALARM's Presidential Council.
And AALARM was the student group that most vocally defended the University's choice of Colin L. Powell as the 1993 Commencement speaker. Powell had come under fire from many campus groups for his role in maintaining the government's policy forbidding openly gay citizens to serve in the military.
Even last spring, when AALARM was officially defunct, the group displayed posters bearing "AIDS: Sodomy = Death," according to Malone. Students also criticized that postering campaign