The staff clearly expresses its concerns about S. Allen Counter's insensitive statements, and its doubts that Counter should fill the role of a campus race relations leader. This, we feel, is sufficient reason to demand his dismissal or resignation from his role as director of the Harvard Foundation.
Harvard currently does not have an umberlla office to deal with race relations. That needs to change. But right now, we have to work with the institutions that already exist within the administration.
In the absence of a diversity office, the burden of race relations falls on S. Allen Counter and on Hilda Hernandez-Gravelle, assistant dean of race relations and minority affairs. These two administrators head the offices mandated with improving relations on a diverse campus.
In a six-page letter to The Crimson, Counter offered many thoughts about the state of race relations on campus. By stepping into this arena, Counter proved that his role gives him the opportunity to deal with race relations on more than just a "feel good" level.
Counter is, in some ways, good at what he does. He has brought a number of well-regarded speakers to campus, and the Foundation's programs have been positive for many students.
But race relations is an important and highly charged issue. And the leader of any organization that purports to improve race relations needs qualities beyond mere competence, or even excellence. He or she needs sensitivity.
Sensitivity means understanding why certain statements can be construed as offensive--and avoiding making them. It means knowing how to prevent people from getting hurt.
On several occasions, Counter has demonstrated that he doesn't have the sensitivity so crucial to his role at the Foundation. Anybody who repeatedly makes insensitive statements shouldn't hold a position that has an enormous effect on campus race relations.