Students March on Crimson to Protest Article

About 50 students marched yesterday from the Science Center to The Harvard Crimson building to protest perceived ethnic stereotyping in "The Invasian," an opinion piece published in last Thursday's edition of Fifteen Minutes (FM).

The feature, by Crimson staff writer Justin G. Fong '03, protested perceived self-segregation by Asian-American students at Harvard.

But participants in yesterday's "March for Responsible Journalism and Respect" said that the piece went too far, casting Asian-American students in stereotypical roles. Many protesters also said the piece reflected insensitivity on the part of The Crimson toward minorities on campus.

A statement by four Crimson executives, printed yesterday, said the Crimson does not edit opinion pieces for content and that the views oppressed were Fong's alone.

But those participating in yesterday's march said they were unsatisfied with The Crimson's explanation.

"I'm upset because The Crimson and FM edit stuff all the time," protest organizer William L. "Lonnie" Everson '02 said. "This time there was a lapse in judgment."

Nearly 100 students gathered at noon in front of the Science Center, and departed for The Crimson at 12:15. March organizers raised signs reading "We Want Responsible Journalism," and "Journalism, Not Racism."

The group walked from the Science Center, past Widener Library, and across Massachusetts Avenue toward The Crimson building on Plympton St.

While most of the protestors were Asian-American students, a significant minority of white and black students took part as well.

Katharine E. Jackson '04, one participant in the march, said she thought the article should not have been printed.

"It was incredibly derogatory and degrading to humanity," she said.

The group was mostly silent as it passed through Tercentenary Theater, with many marchers talking quietly to each other.

As the group approached the intersection of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St., those holding signs raised them to block oncoming traffic. It took several minutes for the group to cross the street.

Once they had crossed Mass. Ave. and assembled at The Crimson, event organizer Seng Yang '01 addressed the crowd of about 50 with the event's first official comments.

Yang started by explaining who she felt the protestors were speaking for.

"We don't represent all Asians on campus," Yang said. "We're individuals, so we don't have group sponsorship."

At the same time, Yang said she felt the scope of the issue was not necessarily limited to Asian-Americans.

"I think a lot of people are misunderstanding why we're doing this march," she said. "What we really hope to do is build a coalition of organizations on campus."

"I think the reason this piece was written is there is a general lack of understanding in the community," Yang said.

She then invited other speakers to share their feelings with the group.

Some of those who stepped forward expressed a similar feeling about the broader scope of yesterday's march.

"It's all because we identify with being a marginalized group," said Kiara Alvarez '01.

Others who spoke at yesterday's event also said they felt it was a top priority to organize Harvard's different ethnic groups into a coalition to combat ethnic stereotyping and racism.

"In terms of coalition building, I think this is an important step," said Eddie A. Bruce '02.

But Bruce and some other speakers also seemed intent on venting frustration with the article itself, and with Crimson staff.

"This was not just irresponsible journalism but not journalism at all," Bruce said. "It was totally not constructive."

Others were more explicit in their criticism.

"I am pissed," said Jeff Sheng '02. "I cannot believe that even one person in this building [The Crimson] could go to The New York Times and say, 'Look at this piece of journalism that was in my school newspaper.'"

Some speakers, meanwhile, focused on the larger context of Fong's article.

Margaret C. Anadu '03 said she felt The Crimson's decision to run Fong's piece was only part of the problem being highlighted by yesterday's protest.

"The focus should be more like, 'Why did this individual write this?'" Anadu said.

Yang echoed Anadu's feelings, calling for a look at the ethnic sensitivity of the entire Harvard community--not just The Crimson.

Speaking with reporters after the speeches, Yang outlined the plans the organizers have for the future, including teach-ins and discussions about self-segregation.

She said a return to pushing for an ethnic studies concentration should follow yesterday's protest.

After yesterday's event, Chhay Chhun '02 said he still believed ethnic issues on campus should be discussed, but with sensitivity.

"If you're going to talk about race, it's important to be informed," he said.