Criticisms of Counter Neglected the Facts

To the editors:

S. Allen Counter, director of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, has earned respect not only throughout Harvard’s campus, but also beyond our gates due to his continuous engagement with students of color over many decades, which has ended up leaving the Harvard community a more welcoming place, and indeed the world a better place. Lucy M. Caldwell ’09 (“Dishonest Discourse,” column, May 21) is not wrong for bringing up her true feelings about issues of racism on campus, but she is out of line when she calls into question the career of a man who has done, and continues to do, so much for the Harvard community. I can guess that she did not stop in to see him and talk with him about his comments before attacking him.

Caldwell seems confused about the Foundation, and that is somewhere research would again come in handy. It is very clear what the Harvard Foundation does. It brings us Cultural Rhythms, the most beautiful display of cultural diversity and commitment, as well as undergraduate expression, each year. It funds various student groups, especially those committed to inter-racial understanding and dialogue (something Caldwell is not). It brings together student leaders on campus to discuss crucially relevant issues, whether it be the Virginia Tech shooting, socioeconomic diversity, or other similar concerns and serves as a way in which faculty members interact and engage in a dialogue with students. It has the portraiture unveiling campaign, where people of color—like Senior Admissions Officer David L. Evans and professor Eileen Jackson Southern Southern—who have given their lives to Harvard and contributed in major ways are finally being recognized throughout these halls where a picture memorializing a white woman seems to be asking too much. I can go on and on. Is it still unclear?

My issue is with the lack of research involved here and the willingness to try and defame a man publicly who means so much and does so much for students on this campus. If it weren’t for Counter’s continued struggle, we would not need to talk about diversity because there most likely would not be the same level as there exists today.

Before one attacks Counter and the Harvard Foundation, and attempts to give us a lesson on South African apartheid (did Caldwell take a course in South African history like some of us have, or did she simply visit wikipedia and feel it was time to drop some knowledge?), I ask that she review her history, not only of racism on this campus and throughout the world, but on the contributions of S. Allen Counter—hopefully then, she and all of us will realize why this article, despite its efforts to engage the racial issue on campus, was completely out of line.

OFOLE U. MGBAKO ’08
Cambridge, Mass.
May 23, 2007