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A Harvard student has alleged that he was racially harassed by an alumnus at this year's Harvard-Yale football game and has accused the University of creating an environment that fosters such incidents.
David A. Love '89, who is Black, wrote a letter to the Harvard Foundation saying that Philip A. Houck '59 rubbed Love's head after Harvard scored a touchdown and referred to his hair as "ear-to-ear carpet." Love also said Houck told him that his blond-haired son was held in awe by Black playmates at the day care center he attended.
Although Houck had been drinking, Love said he felt the incident was not alcohol-related, but instead was typical of Houck. "It was calculated I am sure that was normal for him," he said.
After members of the band informed Houck that he had offended Love, he wrote a letter of apology in which he said he had not intended his actions as a racial slur.
Love's letter to the Foundation's Director S. Allen Counter criticized the University for creating an uncomfortable atmosphere for minorities. Love said he is constantly "confronted with subtle and blatant forms of racism, whether it be from peers or professors."
"In the eyes of too many, I am not a full-fledged member of this University who was admitted on the basis of his credentials, but rather part of a racial quota: part of Harvard's attempt to create a diverse student body, andhumor those 'legacies' who really belong here,"the letter from the Currier House resident reads.
Love blamed Harvard for creating an atmospherethat is "not conducive to badly needed change. "Hesaid the experience with Houck was an example oframpant racism on the Harvard campus.
While Harvard administrators agreed that theincident was reprehensible, they said they havenot planned to take any action beyond talking toLove.
Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 said theUniversity was not doing anything "specifically"about the incident. "I am not sure what could bedone," he said, adding that Harvard is in generaltrying to improve race relations on campus.
Counter said he had met with Love to try "tohelp him overcome his feelings, to move ahead withhis education." Counter said he thought Love wassatisfied with the letter of apology.
But Love said yesterday he thought Houck'sletter was an attempt to "get away from thematter."
In the letter, Houck said he was "both shockedand saddened that what was intended as goodcamraderie was interpreted as a racial slur." Hesaid he had rubbed Love's hair out of "kinship"with him and referred to it as "ear-to-earcarpeting" because his aunt had referred to shorthair that way ever since he was a child.
Houck wrote, "David, you are a nice-looking manwith an engaging smile--someone to whom I reachedout. In doing so I hurt you. Your response hashurt me."
Love said Houck was "childish" to go into"intricate details." He added that he hoped Houckwould be more careful to avoid similar remarks inthe future.
Houck refused comment, saying, "I think it isnone of your business."
Administrators said that the incident was anisolated one. Hilda Hernandez-Gravelle, therecently appointed assistant dean for minorityaffairs, said this was the first incident of thistype to come to her attention. Counter said Houckwas "not representative of the greater community."
Officials stressed their commitment to minorityissues, saying they hoped such incidents would notoccur in the future. Hernandez-Gravelle said shehoped to act as a sympathetic mediator between theobject of harassment and the perpetrators. "Thewhole purpose of my role at the University is tohelp people, to sensitize people," she said.
Love said he would try to publicize theincident to increase awareness of incidents ofharassment
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