Following an unconventional protest inside a recruiting panel at the Science Center last Tuesday, members of the Harvard College Democrats have been questioning whether their organization should maintain its membership in the Harvard Social Forum (HSF), the umbrella organization for progressive campus groups.
During a panel featuring representatives from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a handful of protestors staged a mock deportation of an ethnic minority student, deliberately coughed to disrupt the speakers, and in one instance induced vomiting to demonstrate disgust for the actions of the CIA and DHS.
The protestors inside the panel claimed afterwards to be unaffiliated with HSF, which sponsored a separate protest on the green outside the Science Center at the same time.
In an e-mail last Thursday, the Harvard Republican Club (HRC) asked the Dems and “other sensible organizations” to leave the HSF, calling the actions that took place inside the Science Center inexcusable.
Brittani S. Head ’06, communications director for the Dems, said that the group has no plans to disassociate from HSF at this point in time.
“We had a healthy discussion about our relationship with HSF,” Head said of a Dems executive meeting held last night. “But our relationship with HSF is not the focus of what we’re presently doing.”
Though no official decision has been made, some members of the Dems agree that the group should disassociate itself from the HSF.
“I don’t want my name to be associated with lunatics who vomit when people come to recruit students to help protect our country,” Andrew L. Kent ’07 wrote in an e-mail to the Dems open e-mail list, dems-talk.
Other members of the Dems have not blamed the HSF for the disruptive activists at the panel, but believe the Dems should leave HSF because the two organizations do not share the same ideological goals.
“I think what happened this past Tuesday is part of a pattern of what the HSF values,” Joshua Patashnik ’07 said. “The very fact that HSF organized a protest outside a CIA career panel tells me that their priorities are extreme.”
But some members of the Dems have objected to the HRC’s suggestions. Andrew H. Golis ’06 said the Dems should not allow the letter from HRC to cause a schism in the progressive community.
“I think that the letter that the republicans sent was an amateurish and transparent ploy to separate progressives.” Golis said. “I think that the Dems need to stay in the HSF but I think that HSF needs to be reformed—HSF right now is a small group of people who choose to do things on their own without consulting the other members of what is supposed to be a coalition of progressives.”
But Michael A. Gould-Wartofsky ’07, a member of the HSF coordinating committee, said that actions sponsored by the HSF, such as Tuesday’s protest, are not intended to imply endorsement by all member groups.
HRC President Matthew P. Downer ’07 said the executive board of HRC decided to write the letter in hopes of eroding HSF’s legitimacy on campus.
“The HSF has a history of extreme action and because they are not officially recognized as a student group, they gain what officiality they have through association with clubs like the Dems,” Downer said. “They are able to continue their extreme agenda by using clubs like the College Dems as a front.”
Gould-Wartofsky said the peaceful and more conventional protest that took place outside the Science Center during the panel was organized by the HSF and denied that the activists who disrupted the panel had any official affiliation with the HSF.
Downer, who was present at the panel, has disputed Gould-Wartofsky’s claim, saying he saw Gould-Wartofsky disrupting the panel.
“Whether or not they planned the [disruption] I can’t say, but I certainly saw them participating.” Downer said.
But Gould-Wartofsky, who is also a Crimson editor, said there was no way that Downer could have made those observations based on his position in the lecture hall.
“Mr. Downer could not have possibly observed anything very well, as I saw him and his friends in the HRC sitting the entire time towards the front of Lecture Hall E, to the far left of the room, while I and the other HSF members were standing to the back and to the right.” Gould-Wartofsky said.
Associate Dean of the College Judith H. Kidd said last week that she did not believe that the HSF was involved in the disruption that took place inside the Science Center.
The HSF is an unofficial network of student organizations, and includes over two dozen members, ranging from the Black Men’s Forum to the Progressive Student Labor Movement.
—Staff writer Joshua P. Rogers can be reached at email@example.com.