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Kirkland Hosts Forum To Discuss Housing Day Videos

Following debate sparked by the release of its Housing Day videos—one of which featured masked female students dancing in bikinis—Kirkland House held an open forum Monday night to discuss student opinions.

Though the event was advertised over email as an “open discussion” to foster community discourse, a Kirkland House tutor told Crimson reporters that Kirkland House Master Tom C. Conley said that reporters were not allowed into the event.

The conversation was led by Kirkland tutors and Harvard College Women’s Center interns, according to emails sent out over Kirkland House’s email list, as well as that of the Women’s Center.

“I think this is an issue that Kirkland has wanted to work through because it affected them,” Conley said, adding that the situation has become distorted by “highly public media.”

Conley praised the discussion as “stunningly productive” and “500 percent beyond [his] expectations.”

He added that the students conducted themselves with “uncommon poise and civility, and also empathy—a great deal of empathy, even among people who were in disagreement with one another.”

“It was very nice that there was a forum put on, and hopefully there will be more productive discussion going forward,” Kirkland resident Meghamsh Kanuparthy ’16 said after the event.

Following the forum, Conley said that he barred reporters from attending the event because the discussion was originally intended exclusively for members of the Kirkland House community. However, it appeared that residents of other Houses attended the discussion, which Conley confirmed.

In addition to prompting the formal dialogue, the video that prompted the removal, called “Dark Boar” set to the music of Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” has led students to reflect on the role of Housing Day on campus. Some students said they felt that the video controversy highlights potential shortcomings in the way Houses approach Housing Day.

“I can’t tell you whether or not a majority of students were in support or against these videos and against that Stein Club [where the videos were debuted],” Kirkland resident Edward Escalon ’14 said in an interview on Sunday.

“But what I can tell you is that I do feel that there is a certain amount of silencing happening in the sense that I think that students that maybe were upset about some of these things may have been hesitant to come forward. They may have been hesitant to share their dissatisfaction, because no one wants to ruin Housing Day,” he said.

Escalon added, “No one wants to be the face of someone that ruined House community, and I just think that has a silencing impact on people.”

Kirkland resident Ian D. Nightingale ’15 said in an interview on Sunday that he takes issue with the need to have one “official” Housing Day video. Nightingale, who made a parody House video with friends, said that the video controversy points to a larger problem with Housing Day videos and the expression of House spirit.

“We should decentralize the Housing Day video process, and instead of an official video, we should just have a general spirit of these videos being passed around on Facebook and stuff,” Nightingale said. “Since everyone is sharing them on Facebook anyways, it makes more sense to do that as we see fit and not stress about what’s representing the House well or not.”

Kirkland resident Kevin Garcia ’14, who took “full responsibility” for the development of “Dark Boar” over the House’s listserv on Friday, reuploaded eight of the videos—excluding “Dark Boar”—to his personal Youtube account late Monday. The title of each video included the phrase “Not Official, Not Representative.” Garcia declined to comment on the videos.

—Staff writer Nikki D. Erlick can be reached at nikki.erlick@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @nikkierlick.

—Staff writer Brianna D. MacGregor can be reached at brianna.macgregor@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @bdmacgregor.

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