Tolerance Class Needed

Letters to the Editors

To the editors:

I was deeply saddened by the recent letter of Gladden J. Pappin ’04 (Letters, “Secret Court Rightly Punished Immorality,” Dec. 9). His letter contained a level of hate and intolerance that I never thought I would find among Harvard undergrads.

At first, I could hardly contain my outrage at his implication that the administration should censure homosexual activity. I have heard homophobes use the words “immoral,” “unnatural” and “perverted” before, but I never thought I would hear a Harvard student use such language in this context. And I certainly never expected to hear a student recommend that homosexuals be punished for their sexual orientation.

How does a student come to be filled with so much hate? And how many students on this campus actually agree that people should be punished for their personal lifestyle choices?

Surely Pappin can not be alone; he was just the first one of them who had the wherewithal to write a letter. And once we conclude that Harvard has a silent minority that practices intolerance and bigotry, what can we do about it?

How can we ensure that Harvard undergrads, some of whom preach intolerance under the guise of traditional morality, graduate from this university with an appreciation for contemporary morality? In my fantasy, I envision a Core curriculum that includes a mandatory class on the basic issues of human rights and tolerance for others. As the administration continues its review of the Core curriculum, we are presented with an unprecedented opportunity to turn fantasy into reality. If curricular inertia proves too much to overcome, what are our alternatives?

We must work hard to find some solution, for it is an unbearable thought that students can receive a diploma from this university without first having learned how to live in a society based on respect for each other and our differences. If it is true that Harvard students are our world’s future leaders, then be assured, the stakes are huge. A return to Pappin’s notion of “traditional morality” would be a nightmare none of us can afford.

David M. Thompson

Dec. 11, 2002

The writer is a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the Department of Physics.