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From Bartley’s to Britain

BBC interviews undergrads on transatlantic relations

By Shayak Sarkar, Contributing Writer

In between bites of his “Tony Blair” burger, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) senior correspondent Matt Frei discussed British-American relations with six Harvard undergraduates yesterday.

Frei interviewed students as the BBC crew furtively maneuvered around perturbed waiters at Bartley’s Burger House to cast a spotlight on his subjects. Will Walden, chief news producer of the BBC, organized the event with the help of the Center for European Studies (CES).

“The reason we came here is to look at both sides of the Atlantic, how Britains perceive Americans and vice-versa,” said Walden in a thick British accent. “We chose Boston in particular because it has a lot of connotations...the Boston tea party, New England, the imagery.”

Amidst the carnivorous consumption of their peers, vegetarian Alex R. Stokes ’07 sipped on his strawberry frappe while Alexis J. Pozen ’07 nibbled on her meatless “Dixie Chicks.”

Chosen by the CES, the students gave the BBC crew a short tour of Harvard Yard before proceeding to lunch at the Cambridge landmark and all-American hamburger restaurant.

Naomi Grimley, a producer of the show, said that Bartley’s was chosen simply because she “heard about it from a friend.”

According to Stokes, the BBC told them to try to have “a normal, everyday conversation, just six student talking politics over hamburgers at Bartley’s.”

Stokes said that one of the questions the BBC asked was “if it was surprising that in a recent poll, 55 percent of Britains said that America, along with North Korea and Iran, are among the most dangerous threats to world peace.”

“None of us expressed any shock, especially after the war on Iraq,” said Stokes.

Allison I. Rogers ’04 said that most of the students agreed that the U.S. benefits more than Britain from the alliance between Blair and Bush.

“I think that Britain’s getting shafted. Tony Blair has been asking us to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, but Bush doesn’t follow through,” said Rogers.

In addition to Rogers, Stokes and Pozen, Melissa L. Dell ’05, Joey M. Hanzich ’06 and Dadu Mercier ’05 also participated in the discussion.

CES employee Lisa Eschenbach said the center tried to assemble a diverse group of students for the taping.

Pozen said she found out about the taping from Visiting Professor of Government Edward S. Miliband, who teaches Government 1140, “What’s Left? The Politics of Social Justice.” She said Milliband told her that the BBC needed more women for the show.

But Pozen said the efforts at diversity failed.

“Right when I sat down at Bartley’s, I noticed that there was a demographic imbalance,” she said.

Five of the students were white and one was black.

Stokes said that the group of students was also politically homogeneous.

“I think a better way of selecting the group would have been to look at political affiliation,” said Stokes. “Although I don’t mind the left-wing being overrepresented, I’m not sure it was the most accurate cross-section of the American public or even Harvard.”

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