Protest Leads College to Change Mic Policy
The College plans to change the way it reviews requests to use amplification at outdoor events in the wake of charges that it unfairly denied a request made by the Society of Arab Students (SAS).
A group member, Simon L. Sternin '01, has alleged that the administration discriminated against SAS by refusing to permit the group to use amplification devices at SAS' Oct. 10 vigil in Tercentenary Theatre.
Harvard Students for Israel (HSI), which was holding a rally at the same time, was allowed to use amplification devices--something which Sternin says represents a double standard.
According to Illingworth, the decision was based on a request by the Division of Continuing Education that amplification occur only between 5 and 6 p.m. to minimize the impact on classes held in the area.
Illingworth said he approved HSI's request to use amplification because the group's rally occurred during that one-hour window. He said he rejected SAS' application because the group wanted to use amplifying devices earlier in the afternoon.
Sternin challenged Illingworth's claim, but said he did not retain a copy of the actual application to prove otherwise.
No uniform policy currently exists for evaluating applications, Illingworth said. Rather, he said the College looks at each request individually and makes a decision based on the time, audience and projected impact on other users of the area--Widener Library, Memorial Church and classes in Sever Hall.
But as a result of the current controversy, Illingworth said he plans to create a committee of administrators and other interested parties to help him review future applications.
"We need to balance the need of everyone to be heard," Illingworth said.
According to Sternin, Illingworth also denied a request made by the Harvard Islamic Society (HIS) to use amplification for its annual call to prayer event during Islam Awareness Week. HIS President Zayed M. Yasin '01 said his group had been permitted to use amplification at the event in past years.
But Illingworth said the denial was a simple misunderstanding of the group's plans. He said the request was approved once the plans were clarified.
But according to Yasin and Sternin, the group has damaged the administration's credibility with HIS.
"This is a matter of serious concern to us, and has been somewhat of a blow to the trust that many Muslims had in the administration," Yasin wrote in an e-mail message.
In a written statement posted on his personal website, Sternin has requested that the College apologize to the two groups and clarify its criteria for the use of amplification at outdoor events.
"I hope that the administration will answer the questions posed to it in a clear and timely fashion, so that all students can feel that their University upholds its principles of non-discrimination," said Rayd K. Abu-Ayyash '01, president of SAS.
Sternin--who has met with Illingworth at least three times--said the associate dean has been forthright.
"On the whole, I've definitely appreciated Illingworth's frankness with me," Sternin said.