In a vote of 26-7-4, the Undergraduate Council said it “fully condemns” the University’s decision to accept donations in honor of former professor Martin “Marty” H. Peretz, who has attracted criticism following a Sept. blog post in which he described Muslim life as “cheap, especially for Muslims.”
In the aftermath of the post, student groups such as the Harvard Islamic Society, Black Students Association, and Latinas Unidas have denounced Harvard’s decision to accept a $650,000 fund for undergraduate Social Studies research named for Peretz.
In its resolution, the UC said that Peretz has a history of making “bigoted statements against Muslims, Arabs, Latinos and African Americans.”
The Council decried the University’s decision to accept gifts in Peretz’s honor, calling on the administration to convene a “commission” to consider removing Peretz’s name from the fund.
The UC decided to add its voice to the debate after several student groups that have been active in the protest against the Peretz Fund approached the Council.
“This issue [is] going to fade out in January,” said Student Life Committee Chair Senan Ebrahim ’12, one of the sponsors of the legislation. “There’s a time to talk and a time to act, and I really think the time to act is now.”
While the Council passed the motion after a heated discussion, some members expressed reservations, including hesitation about whether the UC should register an opinion on the matter in its role as a representative of the entire student body.
“I think that the UC didn’t have a very good understanding of the grant and how the grant was structured,” said Adams House representative Ellen V. Lehman ’11, who voted against the motion. “I think it’s unrealistic to have the name removed from the fund, and I think it’s important for Social Studies students to get the money they deserve.”
During the meeting, the UC also approved the creation of the Hack Harvard Campus App Incubator program. This program will give the creators of five promising computer applications—most likely those created as final projects in Computer Science 50—seed money and mentorship to further develop their projects.
“[CS50 is] one of the few areas anywhere in an undergrad course where your assignment is basically, ‘Do something cool,’” UC Vice President Eric N. Hysen ’11 said. “A lot of [the projects] would be really useful for the whole campus...We just need to actually give these groups a couple more resources.”
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