Editor's Note: The Crimson does not usually respond to letters to the editors. However, yesterday's letter from S. Allen Counter and Natosha O. Reid '93 contained what we felt were extraordinary charges against this paper that demanded a response.
RACE RELATIONS AT HARVARD must be in a sorry state indeed. Or perhaps the Harvard Foundation is woefully understaffed.
Whatever the case, there must be some explanation for the four months the Foundation took to respond to The Crimson's four-part series on diversity ("Dealing With Difference," December 2-5) from last fall. We hope the Foundation used the time to respond to racial intolerance more swiftly than it responded to The Crimson. They certainly didn't spend the four months checking the facts.
Yesterday S. Allen Counter, director of the Harvard Foundation for Inter-Cultural and Race Relations, and Natosha O. Reid '93, co-chair of the Foundation's Student Advisory Committee, said in a gargantuan letter to The Crimson that our diversity series and the subsequent editorials regarding the Harvard Foundation (actually, there was only one staff editorial) purveyed "misinformation" to our readers about Harvard's diversity and the Foundation. (Muneer I. Ahmad '93, the other co-chair of the Foundation's student board, did not sign the letter.)
Counter and Reid attempted to "set the record straight" by defending the Foundation and even offered an explanation for why the series and the editorial "fell short in the areas of accuracy, objectivity and fairness."
The errors in Counter and Reid's letter range from the careless to the embarrassing to the downright scary. We'll take them one at a time.
"THE HARVARD FOUNDATIONS' 10 year record of improving racial understanding at Harvard and the inclusion of minorities in the life of the University speaks for itself..."
No, it does not. One reason The Crimson undertook the diversity series was that many students on campus, including Asians, Blacks, gays, Hispanics, Jews, whites and others, complained that the institutions on campus created to improve racial harmony were not doing their job well.
Explicitly racist and anti-gay incidents still occur, many students complained. And we found that a more general lack of sensitivity, whether intentional or not, often allows for actions and attitudes that can be hurtful.
As Reid herself told our reporters in part one of the diversity series, "I'd like to see a lot more interaction between the groups other than just the fact that we're here. I don't see a true interaction or alliance of different racial groups on campus."
Precisely. Many students said the administration could be doing more. Last fall, Reid suggested "a mandatory event that all freshmen must go to" in order to learn about living in a diverse community. Not a bad idea. What's the Foundation doing about it?
"A number of students complained to this office that they had given the Crimson group 'extensive interviews' and that 'none of their pro-Foundation comments were included in the articles because they did not fit with the Crimson's ulterior slant."
Really? None of the students we interviewed complained to us about the way we portrayed their discussions of the Foundation. And to suggest that we did not print pro-Foundation comments is simply dishonest. For example:
"I think the administration does a great job," Manuel S. Varela '94 (now a Crimson comper) was quoted as saying. Linda L. Wei '92, former president of the Asian American Association, told us that the administration does "a lot of good things" to make a diverse community work. "The Harvard Foundation is one of them," she said. Former Hillel Coordinating Council Chair Daniel J. Libenson '92 said the Foundation "does a very good job." All of these comments appeared in the diversity series.
Of course, many students did criticize the Foundation. Black Students Association (BSA) Vice President Zaheer R. Ali '94 told us that what Harvard is doing now -"putting people together without getting their mentalities ready to be put together"--is not effective in achieving racial harmony.