To the Editors of the Crimson:
At last Adam Cohen comes around to face the consequences of his coverage of sexual harassment at Harvard. I agree with him on all counts; sexual harassment is a practice which cannot be tolerated. Policies for punishment of such actions ought to be absolutely consistent and ought not have anything to do with the race of the persons involved. Additionally, I agree that the threat of adverse publicity is probably the best deterrent to such activity.
But Mr. Cohen and The Crimson must surely be aware that the University is not simply being clubby or chauvinistic in its desire to prevent these incidents from becoming public. Such publicity can grievously damage a person's career and personal reputation. While in all cases of proven harassment the harasser is clearly wrong, non-etheless extenuating circumstances such as poor judgement, poor choice of words, a desire to too deeply probe a student's psyche or even too wild a wit can conceivably be involved. Of course, a professor must at all times weigh his words and control his actions; he is absolutely responsible for whatever he does. But as with all crimes, there are degrees of guilt.
I do not pretend to know any more about the case of sexual harassment that occurred last fall than I have read in the Crimson. All I know is that for nearly a year, (until very recently) every time any matter of sexual harassment or the University's policy on this matter was in the news, so was the name and case history of a certain professor.
Are Mr. Cohen and the Crimson aware of the power of the press? Or more importantly are they so well versed in the facts of this particular case that they can reasonably see fit to punish and re-punish the man whenever they or their source desire? Does Mr. Cohen see himself as judge and jury in every case of sexual harassment? Sexual harassment is indeed an issue that bears crucially on the future of women in the academic world. It is newsworthy. The particular incident which occurred last fall is not; it is old news.
If it becomes University policy to make cases of sexual harassment public as a matter of punishment and deterrence--and I believe it should--how many times does Mr. Cohen intend to execute the sentence? Once? Three times? Perhaps the University ought simply to run an advertisement for a specific number of weeks and thus spare Mr. Cohen the trouble.
The Crimson should be proud of its efforts to protect human rights, but the necessity of printing a potentially damaging story must be carefully considered. The necessity of repeating that story must be subject to even greater scrutiny. The freedom of the press must be moderated (by journalists) in the same way that a professor must maintain a professional distance in dealing with his students. David Longobardi '84