Hillel Is Right to Criticize


IN ITS RECENT postering campaign, the Association Against Learning in the Absence of Religion and Morality (AALARM) declared: "Sodomy can get you 15 years in prison in thousands of communities across the nation. At Harvard, it could get you 4 years at America's most prestigious university."

It is particularly upsetting that these posters should appear during Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Awareness Days, a time in the community when we are asked to remember those bisexuals, gays and lesbians who were persecuted by the Nazis, and who continue to be persecuted today. When communities--albeit few--prosecute people under antiquated gay-bashing laws, they institutionalize the kind of homophobia that justifies today's much more subtle--but equally insidious--intolerance.

But beyond our distaste for their timing and our disgust for their explicit support of sodomy laws, the posters reinforce a ridiculous paranoia: No one--not officials from the admissions office, not leaders of gay groups on campus--has ever claimed that sexual orientation is or should be an advantage in the admissions process.

So what was the basis of AALARM's accusation? AALARM co-president E. Adam Webb '93 says he based the charge on his understanding that gays and lesbians represent 2 percent of the national population and 10 percent of the Harvard community. Comparing these figures, Webb concluded that "they are having a tip. They are hurting all other groups. It's a farce."

Ignoring for the moment that the 2 percent figure is almost certainly wrong (even in 1954, the Kinsey study reported 10 percent), Webb's reasoning is nothing short of a call for proportional representation in admissions. If the problem with gay students is that they constitute a higher percentage at Harvard than in America, what about the high percentage of Asian-American students on campus? Or of Jewish students?

No wonder the coordinating committee of the Harvard-Radcliffe Hillel took the unprecedented step of condemning AALARM's postering campaign. Webb's response was that Hillel is a "political, P.C. hack group." This is ludicrous. Hillel's coordinating committee can and should make political decisions, which Webb has every right to criticize. But for Webb to suggest that all of Hillel is just a political front group reveals his eagerness to debate through name-calling--the charge that conservatives often level at the campus left.

Of course Hillel is not a political, P.C. hack group. The kosher food it serves is not political, P.C. hack food. Mosaic is not a political, P.C. hack newsletter. Hillel's Sabbath services are not political, P.C. hack services. Obviously, the Jewish religion doesn't count in the "religion and morality" that AALARM founders find lacking on campus.

When they come to understand the consequences of their logic, AALARM founders will probably deny they support proportional representation in admissions. Regardless, AALARM's posters reveal just how far the group will skew its reasoning and contort its ideology to further its disgraceful campaign against gay students.

The solution is to continue to point out the inaccuracies and falsehoods in AALARM's proclamations. In any case, we can never respond to such homophobia with silence.

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