People in the News: Gladden J. Pappin '04

Courtesy OF Pappin


Gladden J. Pappin ’04 began his brush with campus celebrity, and to some infamy, when he declared in a December a letter to The Crimson that homosexual acts are immoral.

The letter to the editor supported Harvard’s expulsion of homosexual students in 1920.

“Unfortunately, promoting morality is something both the College and religious ministries on campus do very little of these days,” Pappin wrote. “The College should re-establish standards of morality and strongly consider disciplinary measures for those violating them. Such punishments would apply to heterosexuals, of course, but even more so to homosexuals, whose activities are not merely immoral but perverted and unnatural.”

The week Pappin’s letter was published, the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters Alliance (BGLTSA) launched a postering campaign that allowed students to mark their rooms “BGLTQ safe spaces.”

Some students called the letter hate speech, and called Pappin a homophobe. In protest, two of Pappin’s DeWolfe suitemates resigned their positions on the Harvard Salient, the conservative magazine that Pappin edited at the time.

Despite the opposition, Pappin emphasizes that he does not regret writing the letter.

“I would hope that the degeneration of the past 40 years or so is only an historical aberration that will inevitably correct itself,” he says. Pappin says that he is trying to promote traditional morality.

And the Salient, he says, is a good vehicle.

“The fact that we’re here, and we’re making our views known, it’s a sign of our hope for restoration,” Pappin says.

Answering his critics, Pappin denies that any hate motivated his speech.

“I think the real issue is not to pretend that intolerance toward homosexuality is on the rise. I don’t think it is,” Pappin says.

At an Undergraduate Council meeting December 15, Pappin defended his views.

“Homophobia is not based on anxiety or fear. It’s based on disgust for homosexual sexual actions,” Pappin said, just as his speaking time of about one minute ran out.

The Council quickly extended Pappin’s time on the floor.

“Anyone who wants to consider me a homophobe should also label me a ‘heterophobe,’” Pappin said, explaining his opposition to all sexual license.

Pappin did not persuade the Council, however, which earmarked $700 for distribution to campus groups that seek to combat intolerance toward gay students.

However, Pappin says he realizes that returning to the 1920 mores that allowed Harvard to expel students based on their private sexual practices is out of the question.

He says he would like to see the humbler goal of sex-segregated dormitories met in the next few years.

Despite his politically incorrect beliefs, Pappin says he is not ideologically lonely. “My friends and I are of one mind,” he says. “That means there are more like me at Harvard—sorry to scare you.”

In the May 7 issue of the Salient, the last of the school year, Pappin published an article titled “A Letter’s Defense: Philosophy and Homosexuality,” in which he outlines a philosophical case against homosexuality.

But, with exam period nearing, the reaction to the Salient’s issue was slight compared to the firestorm following Pappin’s December letter, ending for now Pappin’s time in the spotlight.