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Eliot E-mail List Shut Down

House members debate issues of free speech

By Katharine A. Kaplan, Crimson Staff Writer

The Eliot House Committee (HoCo) shut down the House open e-mail list Sunday night after complaints over the use of the word “slut” in a message and uncertainty whether the list should be regulated.

HoCo suspended the e-mail list to clarify the rules governing it and to ensure that the committee was not responsible for regulating the list, according to Eliot HoCo co-chair Geoffrey S. Harcourt ’04.

The action was prompted by a spate of e-mails protesting the use of the word “slut” to describe an unnamed person who had “hook[ed] up with 47 percent of the football team.”

The list was reopened last night.

Harcourt said the committee wanted to reaffirm the unmoderated status of the list and ensure that House administrators were aware of the recent posts before allowing the debate to continue.

“It was previously not very well defined whether or not the list was monitored,” Harcourt said.

According to Harcourt, HoCo is responsible only for monitoring membership in the list, and not for censoring the content of e-mails.

“There is no censorship, that’s one of the reasons the list is being suspended,” said Kevin R. Pilkiewicz ’04, who originally used the word “slut.”

“It was implied that maybe there should be censorship, but if they [members of HoCo] accept the power to censor, they accept responsibility,” Pilkiewicz said.

According to Harcourt, Eliot House Master Lino Pertile and Allston Burr Senior Tutor Oona Ceder said in a meeting last night that the House committee was not responsible for messages sent to the open list.

“The Eliot list is an unmoderated list, and has always been an unmoderated list,” Harcourt said.

Harcourt said individuals are solely responsible for the messages they post the list.

Pertile and Ceder declined to comment for this story.

The list currently has no rules on the content of messages, but Harcourt said there is an understanding that members should not use offensive language or engage in personal attacks.

“There is not a set of rules, and that may be something that has to change,” Harcourt said.

Members of HoCo will meet with Pertile and Ceder later this week to determine if regulations for the list need to be developed.

However, he said that members will not be restricted from posting unpopular opinions.

—Staff writer Katharine A. Kaplan can be reached at kkaplan@fas.harvard.edu.

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