Minority Coverage


To the Editors of the Crimson:

The Harvard Crimson's coverage of Third World students and the Harvard Foundation's' function, activities and staffing has been irresponsible and insensitive. Rarely have we seen any newspaper practice such inconsiderate journalistic license. The Crimson's articles have endangered the status of the Foundation, as well as that of minority students at Harvard. They have also jeopardized Dr. S. Allen Counter's personal and professional well-being it is the role of any responsible chronicle to truthfully inform educate its readers so as to enhance the community, yet the Crimson seems bent on degrading and humiliating Third World students at Harvard. Rarely have we noticed an article written about minorities that did not have a negative slant. A standout example was the 1980 editorial piece accompanied by random photos of Black students onto which bars (suggesting criminality) were later superimposed. The plaintiffs field a law suit against the Crimson and settled out of court. But although that battle was won, how can full reparations ever be made to the integrity of Blacks and, in fact, minorities in general?

It seems that whenever anyone--student, faculty member, or administrator--says something negative about minorities or minority qualifications, the Crimson rushes to give that information headlines, often without verifying the facts or questioning the source. In the rare event that corrections are made by the Crimson, regarding one of its articles, the corrections are made by the Crimson, regarding one of its articles, these corrections are buried inside the paper, so as not to catch the reader's eye. Instead of "news as it happens," the Crimson prints "news as we see fit."

More recently the Crimson in its eagerness to further propagate myths of minority incompetence, rushed to publish parts of the Klitgaard Report, which was incomplete, inaccurate, and degrading to minorities. The Klitgaard Report purported that Black students, who were displacing "more qualified" Jewish students, would be better off at lesser white schools.

Part of the recurring problems between minorities and the Crimson is that their staff is severely lacking in minority representation with regard to news writing and editing. Wendy L. Wall '83, the Crimson's editor in charge of minority affairs at the time, stated in a discussion with minority students last winter that the Crimson would put minority news writers on the staff if the paper could find qualified ones. Such paternalistic sentiment sounds quite ironic coming from an organization professing to be a liberal mouthpiece. Are members of minority groups ever qualified in the eyes of some whites? Since there are so few minorities writing for the Crimson, does any one group write most of the articles for this paper? Is that group the one which is simply the most qualified of our students? Certainly there are qualified minorities of color here at Harvard. Both majority and are qualified minorities of color here at Harvard. Both majority and minority students must finally ask themselves: Is institutional racism built into the politics of getting onto the Crimson staff?

When Ms. Wall was asked by Dr. Counter to share her coverage of the Harvard Foundation with a minority student, majority student Adam Cohen was appointed. Judging from the articles written by Mr. Cohen following his appointment, it is at best questionable that he has the interest of minority students at heart. His April 16, 1982 article, according to interviewee Rhonda Augusta '84, "twists the truth."

The April 15, 1982 Crimson editorial piece entitled "An Infirm Foundation" raised some good points pertaining to the formation of the Foundation and its objective. However, Ms. Wall (the author) fell considerably short of accurately describing the function of the Foundation. She fails to address the many difficulties confronting any individual undertaking a project of the size, magnitude, and complexity as that of a Race Relations Foundation. Moreover, Ms. Wall made no mention of the many research projects, (e.g. discrimination in the athletic department, race relations in various undergraduate houses, and an investigation of the educational status of minorities of color in the Cambridge Public School system) being conducted by the Foundation.

Since the publication of Wall's April 15, 1982, the Foundation has sponsored an entire battery of activities and speakers. It has established a special tutoring program at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School and it has been one of the few official vehicles for Third World Harvard students to initiate special programs and air their hopes and disappointments with Harvard University. If The Harvard Crimson would have been as receptive and sensitive to minority students as Dr. Counter has been, then we all could begin to communicate as equal partners. Without communication and understanding racial harmony remains simply an abstract idea. Mare A. Francis '83   Joseph A. Russ '83   Deborah Alvarez '83   Foundations Staff Members