The Harvard Foundation’s annual Student and Faculty Awards Dinner, which honors students and professors who have worked towards cultural understanding and unity, had a special tone last night, as outgoing Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 was lauded by speakers for his contribution to student life.
In accepting his award, Lewis said last night that Harvard must be careful to strike an appropriate balance between diversity and unity to avoid becoming “a pureed politically correct soup.”
He warned that the efforts to achieve tolerance towards racial and ethnic minorities sometimes leaves others open to criticism—but added that Harvard has not succumbed to this tendency.
“On many college campuses, athletes are the last group that is safe to stereotype,” he said. “We just don’t do that here.”
The Foundation, founded in 1981, also presented the Distinguished Senior Award to seven members of the class of 2003 at last night’s ceremony, which was held in Quincy Dining Hall.
The Foundation presented awards to 16 other undergraduates, most of them seniors, for their contributions to campus multiculturalism.
An additional 16 undergraduates, mostly first-years and sophomores, received Certificates of Recognition for promising beginnings in the field.
S. Allen Counter, director of the Foundation, said the annual dinner is important for acknowledging and celebrating the improvements Harvard has made in courting diversity.
“I credit the students who are making this the kind of environment that is harmonious,” Counter said.
David L. Evans, senior admissions officer and member of the Foundation’s Faculty Advisory Committee, said in his closing remarks that the freshman facebook serves as a “time-lapse photograph” for the progress Harvard has made in diversifying its student body.
“This college has not always been as it appears this evening,” Evans said.
Progress towards diversity will necessarily be slow, Evans said, but he encouraged the evening’s undergraduate honorees not to fear controversy.
“As my grandmother once said, it’s not wise to torch the house of evil when you can put a termite in there day by day,” Evans said.
Priscilla J. Orta ’05 and Clarence D. “Duane” Meat ’05 were the only two sophomores honored with Harvard Foundation Awards.
Orta, the president of RAZA, said she was surprised to receive an award that usually went only to juniors and seniors.