Support Builds for Secret Court Movement

Their Day in the Yard, a student-led initiative to right the wrongs of Harvard’s infamous Secret Court of 1920, has earned the support of various student groups and the attention of the City of Cambridge GLBT Commission.

The movement—spearheaded by a Harvard Extension School student who wishes to remain anonymous because she is also a University employee—was conceived over the summer to grant posthumous degrees to the seven homosexual undergraduates that Harvard persecuted and ultimately expelled in the early 1920s.

Student organizations on campus like Girlspot, Harvard Queer Students and Allies, and GLOW—Gay, Lesbian, or Whatever—have voiced their support for awarding the posthumous degrees on “secretcourt.org,” the movement’s website. Additionally, over 430 people have expressed their support on the movement’s Facebook petition.

QSA Co-chair Marco Chan ’11 said that Their Day in the Yard’s scope has extended beyond the confines of the University.

Shortly after The Crimson published a piece on Their Day in the Yard in late September, Robert L. Parlin ’85—a member of the City of Cambridge GLBT Commission—expressed his support for the movement, according to Chan.

Although Parlin could not be reached for comment, John W. Gintell, co-director of the commission, said that the issue of whether Harvard should award the posthumous degrees is “something the commission should at least talk about.”

He added that the commission’s monthly meeting—held last night—might not have room to discuss the history of Harvard and the Secret Court, as the agenda already contained a full list of other topics to discuss related to the present day.

The Cambridge commission deals primarily with GLBT issues in the police department, schools, medical services, and housing, according to Gintell.

“I kind of think that what our commission is most interested in is the present and the future,” he said. “This is my personal take, but I’d rather have things work out so that if sometime in the future there’s some GLBT issue, the Harvard police department will be better equipped to deal with it.”

Of the Secret Court itself, Gintell said, “it’s a pretty ugly thing in the past, but it was a long time ago.”

Leaders of Their Day in the Yard said that they would value the support of the City of Cambridge because it would show that the history of the Secret Court was a concern for the local community beyond the narrow scope of Harvard.

“These students were not only asked to leave Harvard,” the Extension School student said. “They were also asked to leave Cambridge the city, so that’s great that they’re supporting us.”

—Staff writer James K. McAuley can be reached at mcauley12@college.harvard.edu.

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