News

The Path to Public Service at SEAS

News

Should Supreme Court Justices Have Term Limits? That ‘Would Be Fine,’ Breyer Says at Harvard IOP Forum

News

Harvard Right to Life Hosts Anti-Abortion Event With Students For Life President

News

Harvard Researchers Debunk Popular Sleep Myths in New Study

News

Journalists Discuss Trump’s Effect on the GOP at Harvard IOP Forum

Dunster Festival Angers Students

By Caroline T. Nguyen

A Dunster House ceremony celebrating the neo-pagan, Jewish and Chinese harvest festivals has become the subject of controversy among Dunster affiliates.

The "Harvest Moon Festival," held in Dunster's main courtyard late Friday night, featured aspects of the pagan Thargelia festival, the Jewish holiday of Sukkot and the Chinese harvest festival Zhong Zie Jie.

A flyer advertising the event called the festival a celebration of the "moon, Autumn and the harvest" and invited Dunsterites to bring drums, bells and whistles to play at the event, celebrated in a sukkah, a traditional hut-like structure created for the Jewish harvest festival.

The festival, which the flyer suggested would bring "a feeling of community to the House," has instead been a source of contention in the House since an anonymous message, door-dropped to Dunster rooms Friday evening, protested the association of the Chinese harvest festival with the interfaith Dunster event.

The anonymous message, titled "A Silent Protest," suggested Chinese students were not involved in the planning and celebration of the event and said the placement of the different festivals in the sukkah was "fabricating diversity."

According to Dunster House Co-master Karel Liem, the event was initiated by Allston Burr Senior Tutor Suzi Naiburg and organized by two Dunster resident tutors.

Liem last night said he has not been approached by any students concerned about the event, even though he spent the weekend in close contact with many students. He added that the writers of the protest letter have not identified themselves to him. Naiburg was not available for comment yesterday.

Dunster resident tutor Jeffrey Goldberg, one of the event's two organizers, not only refused to comment but also grabbed The Crimson reporter's pen and crossed out the writing on her notebook page when interviewed.

Although the writers of the letter have not publicly identified themselves, a number of Dunster residents said they were upset by the content of the festival.

Dunster resident Shirling Tsai '99 said she thought the different festivals should not be celebrated together.

"There is nothing wrong with having different celebrations," but you can't mix them together," Tsai said.

Tsai, an officer of the Chinese Students Association (CSA), added, however, that neither she nor the CSA had anything to do with the protest flyers.

Other students agreed that the festival indiscriminately linked different traditions.

"When the Chinese students voiced their protest, I understood where they were coming from," Dunster resident Joel B. Pollak '99 said. "The idea was belittling because all festivities were equated and interchanged."

According to Pollak, who is Jewish, the idea of mixing Jewish observation with that of other cultures or traditions is alien to Jewish practice. However, a number of Dunster residents said they believe the letter was a prank, not a genuine expression of concern.

"I don't know who wrote this," said Lifan Yang '99, a Chinese-American living in Dunster House. "I feel that [the protest] is just a joke. People were just reading it and laughing at it."

Peter T. Tsai '97, also a Chinese-American resident of Dunster, was equally surprised by the "silent protest" and said he was disturbed that the letter's writers seemed to suggest they spoke for all Chinese-American Dunster residents.

"Whoever wrote it should not have," Peter Tsai said. "It is not a representation of the whole group which they said they'd represent."

Another student, Hayle Chun '98, suggested another reason for the "silent protest." He said he thinks the flyer was a protest against the manner in which Dunster courtyard is made available for events.

"Some people in Dunster have influence in the house and can get the courtyard to use for what they support," Chun said, "whereas other people clearly would not have this kind of influence."

Chun said he believes the courtyard should not be used for religious services targeting a specific group of students. He said he believes the festival was an attempt to justify the placement of an exclusively Jewish symbol in a public space.

"In order to justify the sukkah...they had to do the Harvest Moon Festival [which incorporated varying cultures] which targets the larger community," Chun said.

Despite the controversy over this year's festival, several students hope that a modified version of it will return next year.

"I hope that next year the celebrations will be continued," said Daniel I. Silverberg '97. "But I also hope that they'll be sensitive to people's concerns.

Dunster resident tutor Jeffrey Goldberg, one of the event's two organizers, not only refused to comment but also grabbed The Crimson reporter's pen and crossed out the writing on her notebook page when interviewed.

Although the writers of the letter have not publicly identified themselves, a number of Dunster residents said they were upset by the content of the festival.

Dunster resident Shirling Tsai '99 said she thought the different festivals should not be celebrated together.

"There is nothing wrong with having different celebrations," but you can't mix them together," Tsai said.

Tsai, an officer of the Chinese Students Association (CSA), added, however, that neither she nor the CSA had anything to do with the protest flyers.

Other students agreed that the festival indiscriminately linked different traditions.

"When the Chinese students voiced their protest, I understood where they were coming from," Dunster resident Joel B. Pollak '99 said. "The idea was belittling because all festivities were equated and interchanged."

According to Pollak, who is Jewish, the idea of mixing Jewish observation with that of other cultures or traditions is alien to Jewish practice. However, a number of Dunster residents said they believe the letter was a prank, not a genuine expression of concern.

"I don't know who wrote this," said Lifan Yang '99, a Chinese-American living in Dunster House. "I feel that [the protest] is just a joke. People were just reading it and laughing at it."

Peter T. Tsai '97, also a Chinese-American resident of Dunster, was equally surprised by the "silent protest" and said he was disturbed that the letter's writers seemed to suggest they spoke for all Chinese-American Dunster residents.

"Whoever wrote it should not have," Peter Tsai said. "It is not a representation of the whole group which they said they'd represent."

Another student, Hayle Chun '98, suggested another reason for the "silent protest." He said he thinks the flyer was a protest against the manner in which Dunster courtyard is made available for events.

"Some people in Dunster have influence in the house and can get the courtyard to use for what they support," Chun said, "whereas other people clearly would not have this kind of influence."

Chun said he believes the courtyard should not be used for religious services targeting a specific group of students. He said he believes the festival was an attempt to justify the placement of an exclusively Jewish symbol in a public space.

"In order to justify the sukkah...they had to do the Harvest Moon Festival [which incorporated varying cultures] which targets the larger community," Chun said.

Despite the controversy over this year's festival, several students hope that a modified version of it will return next year.

"I hope that next year the celebrations will be continued," said Daniel I. Silverberg '97. "But I also hope that they'll be sensitive to people's concerns.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags