Four gay students at the Kennedy School of Government (KSG) received hate mail yesterday after an opinion piece they wrote appeared in Tuesday's edition of The Citizen, the school's student newspaper.
Scott R. Boule, Myong H. Leigh, Kyle E. Kimball and Evan J. Manvel discovered the memo--which was signed, "Citizens for a Fag Free KSG"--in their mailboxes at the school yesterday morning.
"Fuck your first amendment. Stop crying faggot! Go fuck yourselves up the ass!" the memo said.
Naheed K. Nenshi, opinion editor of The Citizen, received a separate memorandum, which also included racist attacks, from the same author.
"The niggers, chinks and spics are next," the other memo said. "We are all in favor of a white, heterosexual school." The typed memo claimed that the school "fail[s] to foster controversial views" and that "homosexuality is unnatural."
It also voiced opposition to affirmative action programs, and vowed: "This isn't the last time you'll hear from us."
Dean of the Kennedy School Joseph S. Nye Jr. initially responded to the incident yesterday with a memorandum to the KSG community.
"The content of the two documents is so puerile and outrageous that one is tempted to believe they are parodies," Nye wrote in the memo. "If serious, they reflect a level of ignorance and cowardice unworthy of a member of this community."
The memos were addressed in a discussion between students and KSG administrators yesterday evening.
The discussion was part of the regular weekly meeting of a group formed to discuss diversity issues at the school and led by KSG students Rick C. Wade and Robin A. Dubin. Wade said that Nye and Joseph J. McCarthy, associate dean of degree programs at the Kennedy School, had been invited to attend the meeting last week.
At the meeting, Nye outlined action he has taken in the wake of the incident. Nye said that he has contacted the Harvard University Police, discussed the incident during a meeting of KSG senior faculty and asked McCarthy to lead an investigation into the source of the memos. Nye also said he will provide additional security at events where gay, lesbian and bisexual students may be targets of hate crimes.
KSG student Myrna Perez said after the meeting that she was dissatisfied with the extent of Nye's actions.
"His response to the memos was woefully inadequate," she said. "I would like to have him call a school wide meeting condemning the action, and take steps to proscribe written harassments against particular students."
Several students also called for more attention to issues of race, gender and sexual orientation in classes and case studies.
"It's pretty hard to have a discussion about welfare and not talk about race," said Jamal N. Simmons, a second-year student.
Nye acknowledged that there is room for improvement in addressing diversity at the Kennedy School.
"We're not doing well enough," he said.
"Many faculty members find it embarrassing to deal with issues of race, gender or sexual orientation," he added.
The students presented Nye with a list of recommendations, including sensitivity training for faculty members, active recruitment of minority faculty and an assessment of how diversity is addressed in existing courses.
Many students said they wanted to see a more aggressive approach to addressing diversity.
"If someone who uses terms like 'faggot,' 'nigger,' 'chink,' 'spic' graduates from here, what's called for is not an incremental approach... but a radical change," Leigh said.
At times, Nye appeared visibly frustrated by the students' demands.
Leigh called on Nye to take more forceful steps to make faculty members more sensitive to diversity issues.
"What would you like me to do? Would you like me to fire the tenured faculty?" Nye asked in response.
"What gets my back up is when you say, 'Do this. Do that. Give me a timetable,'" he later added.
After the meeting, many students said they wished Nye had committed to a more concrete set of proposals.
"Without timelines and deadlines, I don't care what he said," Manvel said.
"He was able to get off relatively easy," Perez said. "He didn't have to commit to any difficult or hard-to-enact changes."
Nye said after the meeting that he found the discussion "helpful."
"A couple of the points I could call unrealistic," he said. "But I thought most people were very reasonable.