Student Letter Criticizes Marty Peretz

In response to what student groups considered “racist” and “disturbing” anti-Muslim remarks made by former Harvard professor Martin “Marty” H. Peretz, five student support groups joined to send an open letter to senior administrators in the Committee of Degrees in Social Studies, encouraging the committee not to honor Peretz at its fiftieth-year anniversary celebration.

The presidents of the Harvard Islamic Society, the Harvard-Radcliffe RAZA, the Harvard Society of Arab Students, and Latinas Unidas signed the letter on Thursday and received an endorsement from the president of the Harvard Black Students Association, in its call for the committee not to host Peretz in its celebration Sept. 25.

“We respectfully ask that you reconsider having Mr. Peretz as one of the Celebration’s speakers, or at least that he be publicly challenged to defend views that are, in our opinion, indefensible,” stated the open letter, which is addressed to the Chair of the Committee of Degrees on Social Studies Richard Tuck and the Director of Studies Anya E. Bernstein.

The letter also cites examples of Peretz’s former pieces, in which he makes racist comments about Mexicans and Blacks.

President of the Harvard Islamic Society Abdelnasser A. Rashid ’11-’12 said that given Peretz’s “history of making terribly racist statements,” his latest comments were unsurprising.

“I hope that the University refuses to lend legitimacy to his racist views by honoring him at a prestigious celebration,” Rashid said. “By honoring Peretz, the University will send a message to its Muslim students that they are not valued members of the Harvard community, and that it is acceptable to be bigoted against Muslims.”

In addition to the written document sent to the committee, Rashid and the Harvard Islamic Society corresponded with alumni to draft a petition, to be signed by students of the Harvard community who feel that Peretz should not be publicly honored “in light of his long record of racist statements.”

Simon L. Sternin ’01 said that he and other Social Studies alumni have been in touch with the Social Studies Committee to express their concerns.

Peretz has recently appologized for his comments on the eve of the Jewish holiday Yom Kiuppur.

“In this past year I have publicly committed the sin of wild and wounding language, especially hurtful to our Muslim brothers and sisters,” Peretz wrote in the blog post. “I allowed emotion to run way ahead of reason, and feelings to trample arguments. For this I am sorry.”

Tuck did not respond to repeated attempts for an interview. Bernstein declined to comment, saying that the committee will issue a statement later today.

—Staff writer Julia R. Jeffries can be reached at juliajeffries@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Gautam S. Kumar can be reached at gkumar@college.harvard.edu.

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