On Saturday evening, Jasmine Y. Miller ’13 and her roommate Georgia V. Stasinopoulos ’13 were sitting in their dorm room when Miller showed Stasinopoulos a new post on The Harvard Voice’s blog that she found alarming.
Attributed to “The Voice Staff,” the post on the blog of the student life magazine poked fun at the on-campus recruiting process for consulting and finance jobs by identifying five types of people someone might encounter at a pre-interview reception. Second on the list was “The Asian.”
The post said about Asian interviewees, “They dress in the same way (satin blouse with high waisted pencil skirt for girls, suits with skinny ties for boys), talk in the same sort-of gushy, sort-of whiny manner, and have the same concentrations and sky-high GPAs. They’re practically indistinguishable from one another, but it’s okay. Soon, they will be looking at the same Excel spreadsheets and spend their lunch talking about their meaningful morning conversations with the help desk of Bloomberg. Uniqueness is overrated when you make six-figure salaries.”
Miller, who is half Asian, immediately commented on the piece and emailed The Voice’s editors, April A. Sperry ’13 and Michelle B. Nguyen ’13. She received an apologetic email from Sperry.
The editors of The Voice then modified the article, changing “The Asian” to “The Overachieving Asian,” and then again to “The Super-Interviewee.” Further, the editors changed the byline from “The Voice Staff” to “Anonymous,” removed all comments, and disabled the comments feature for that post.
In an editors’ note, they apologized for the potentially offensive content. “Though the article was written by an anonymous contributor, we have removed the inappropriate content because it is not in line with The Voice’s mission of promoting satirical, yet inclusive, content,” the note said.
At first, that text below the post was followed by a note from the writer, which said, “Clearly, I’ve been censored, which in itself is an interesting reflection on free speech in America. If you couldn’t tell that this article was satire, then we have bigger problems than me being ‘offensive.’ (If you are curious to know what the censored stereotype is, just take a quick look around the room. JK!)”
By Sunday afternoon, the writer’s note had been removed.
Stasinopoulos—who along with Miller once tried to found a student life blog to compete with Very Noice, The Voice’s blog where the problematic post appeared—said she thought that The Voice did not go far enough in retracting the post. “I don’t understand why the post is still up,” she said.
Miller listed negative stereotypes that the post touched on. “The perpetual foreigner—this weird other that doesn’t interact with the rest of the student population or America—that’s an often-invoked stereotype,” she said. “And then the idea of Asians as an un-individuated mass. You can’t distinguish them from each other; they’re not original; they don’t have their own voice.”
Miller also pointed to the racially charged language of other items on the list. One of the other four types, “The Final Club Bro,” she noted, was described as blue-eyed, which Miller interpreted as white. “You just said Asian people can’t be final club bros,” she said.
Pamela Yau ’14, co-president of the Harvard Radcliffe Asian American Association, said that the blog post spurred a discussion on her organization’s email list of racism toward Asians. The Chinese Student Association passed the offensive paragraph over its email list as well.
“It’s sad that there are still these stereotypes that exist about Asian people,” Yau said. “Even if the post was written in a joking way, trying to be humorous, I think that to group all the Asians together still plays to that stereotype that Asians are always trying to fight against and speak up about. We do appreciate the fact that there was a backlash.”
The backlash at this point has been much less dramatic than the reaction to a column published by an Asian writer in The Crimson in 2001, which opened a discussion of Asian behavior and self-segregation at Harvard by stating, “Most Harvard Asians can be pretty frickin’ lame. Yes, the Asian people at this college make me sick.” After outraged letters to the editor and a march on The Crimson by about 50 students, the newspaper published an apology and retracted the article.
All five posts on Very Noice since May have been written under the bylines “The Voice Staff” or “Some Dude.” Sperry, who is listed on The Voice’s website as one of two presidents and editors-in-chief of the publication last school year, declined to comment. Nguyen could not be reached for comment on Sunday afternoon.
—Staff writer Amy L. Weiss-Meyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.