Harvard didn't memoralize Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, a Harvard graduate student, for his role in planning the World War II attack on Pearl Harbor--and neither should they memoralize Confederate soldiers in Memorial Church, members of the Harvard Black Law Student Association (HBLSA) said in a press release yesterday.
"There is absolutely no precedent for memorializing or commemotating Harvard alumni who died as combatants fighting against their own country," said HBLSA president Patience R. Singleton.
The press release was part of HBLSA's continued assault on a proposal, which went before the Board of Overseers this weekend, for a Memorial Church monument to Harvard alumni who died fighting in the Civil War. The memorial would include both Union and Confederate war dead.
Yamamoto, who cratted Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, was shot down by American forces in 1943. He is an example of slam Harvard soldiers whom the University has chosen not to memorialize, according to HBLSA members.
Harvard officials agree that the University does not have a set policy on honoring alumni.
"I don't believe there is an ironclad rule about memorials at Harvard," said Jack P. Reardon Jr. '60, executive director of the Harvard Alumni Association.
Four German alumni who fought for Germans in World War I and one who fought for the Nazis in World War II are memorialized by the University, Reardon said Reardon added that the soldier had been forced into the Nazi arms and had served against his will.
But because Harvard lacks a consistent polics on memorials, the University must offer a instituation for each decision, according to HBLSA officials.
"The point is that during the civil war, people were fighting against their own countys. There's no paralled tot the four German soldiers from World War I who were fighting for Germany," said HBLSA member Reginald I Brown, a third year Harvard I am School student.
Last weekend, the Board of Over seers, the lesser of Harvard's two governing boards, voted to send the issue back to the Harvard Alumini Association for further consideration, Reardon said.
University Prosost Albert Carnesale said the issue depends in large part on how one views the memorial.
"If you look at [the memorial] as reconciltation after a civil war I 30 years in our past," then it would be acceptable, the prosost said yesterday.
"If you view it more symbolically as reconciltation between racism and non racism, then, of course, no ree onciliation is feasible," Carnesale added.
HBLSA members have said they wonder if Harvard has an ulterior motive in proposing the memorial.
"That the University is being hypocritical makes you wonder if there's another agenda," said Brown, "there's not someone somewhere trying to rewrite history, fuzzy up who was right and who was wrong."
Harvard officials acknowledge that this issue is particularly sensitive for the black community. Reardon said the Harvard Alumni Association is taking those concerns into account.
"The African-American community clearly has great discomfort with memorializing those who fought for the South. That discomfort is very important. We won't do something on this unless we are together as a community," Reardon said.
But HBLSA members say that this proposal is a statement of Harvard's insensitivity to black students.
"Yamamoto is not memorialized because it would piss off World War II alumni. Their opinion count because they have lots of money. African-Americans'...interest and feelings clearly aren't as important," Brown said