Even amidst the deluge of midterms and papers that are probably on your to-do list right now, we're sure you've heard of the latest controversy regarding ethnic studies and The Harvard Salient. Still, you may be asking, what's going on?
On March 13, Patrick T. Brennan '11, managing editor of The Salient, published a highly controversial article about ethnic studies. In the article, Brennan condemned the new Ethnic Studies secondary field as tangential to a proper undergraduate education. But in the meantime, his rhetoric-heavy article has ignited passionate debate over meals, House e-mail lists, meetings, and just about any other place at Harvard.
Jaissa L. Feliz '12, vice president of Fuerza Latina, lambasted the article, both for its style and its content.
"While we understand that everyone is entitled to their opinion, we and many members of our community were quite offended by the language used in the article." she said. "We thought that the conclusions were reached in a misinformed manner, and that the language was distasteful and inflammatory."
Professors, too, were aware of the article and its controversy.
Caroline Light, director of studies for the Committee on Degrees in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, defended WGS, saying that it has become a more prominent part of the University in recent years given that the number of the students enrolled in WGS classes increased from 300 to 625 over the past four years.
Brennan had many opponents, but he said he also had supporters.
"I have received much agreement and encouragement from all sorts of sources, ranging from Salient editors emeriti who have been through similar experiences to a Kenyan student at Tufts," he said.
Just days after the article was published, House e-mail lists and club lists exploded with commentary, both good and bad, concerning Brennan and his controversial statements.
To this, Brennan said, "I think it's an unfortunate comment on the state of Harvard's intellectual life and the overwhelming liberal majority here that they prefer to insult me over various e-mail lists rather than engage with the substance of my argument."
But while he did maintain his argument, Brennan said he admits that some aspects of its delivery could have used refinement.
"I stand by what I wrote, though I will not deny that some of the statements I made were perhaps slightly hyperbolic and unclearly phrased," Brennan said. "I think much attention has been unfortunately focused on two or three temptingly incendiary sentences rather than the main thrust of my article."
Photo courtesy of Matt Boulton/Wikimedia Commons.