Student Outcry Prompts Meeting

Muslim students

In a meeting with several Muslim undergraduates last Friday, Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 promised to work with Associate Dean of the College Judith H. Kidd to issue a public “clarification” of Kidd’s recent e-mail warning the editors of The Harvard Salient that “some segments of the campus... may become dangerous” after the paper published the controversial Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.

Kidd is scheduled to meet with the same group of students today—the same day Gross said the clarification would be issued.

But the students who met with Gross said they are not completely satisfied with his promise and are calling for Kidd to formally apologize.

Kidd, who did not return request for comment yesterday, has defended the e-mail in the past. She told The Crimson last week that the e-mail was sent only “out of concern for the students.”

But some Muslim students have interpreted the e-mail differently, reading insensitivity and bias into Kidd’s e-mail.

“Hurt” and “personally offended” by the e-mail, Hebah M. Ismail ’06, who organized the meeting with Gross, said that Muslims seem to be treated differently than other students are treated by the administration.

She said that while administrators worry that Muslims might “become dangerous,” they fail to respond adequately to allegations of hate speech towards Muslim students.

“Earlier this year, a Muslim student was harassed right outside of Lamont for being Muslim. Even after she specifically asked for an e-mail to be sent out to the Harvard community, the College did nothing,” Ismail wrote in an e-mail last night.

“The College did not even e-mail the Muslim community to express a concern for our wellbeing. So when the Muslims community finds out that an administrator emails the Salient editors that states ‘The College is concerned for your welfare,’ without any threats being reported, it can not help but feel that there is differential treatment,” she wrote.

Ismail said she feels that Muslims are in danger in Harvard Square but that the College is doing nothing about it.

The editor of the Salient, in contrast, said his staff has not received an e-mail or a call that could be conceived as “at all threatening.”

Travis R. Kavulla ’06-’07, the editor of the Salient, said in an interview yesterday that he understood and sympathized with the concerns of Muslim students on campus.

“Dean Kidd’s statement was out of line,” he said. “That she’d think any Harvard student would be dangerous is absurd.”

But Kavulla, who is also a former Crimson editorial executive and writes a bi-weekly opinion column for The Crimson, stopped short of saying he thought Kidd should apologize. He said it is an issue between her and Muslim students.

Kidd sent out the e-mail last Wednesday in the wake of the Salient’s decision to reprint four of the Danish cartoons which have prompted riots and embassy-burnings across the Middle East.

Ismail said that she thought Kidd’s remarks conformed to popular stereotypes of Muslims, and said she hoped the conditions would improve for Muslims on campus.

“I expect the Salient to be respectful of their fellow students and others’ religions,” she wrote in an e-mail. “I expect the Harvard Muslim community to [continue] to counteract the prevailing stereotypes against Muslims.”

—Staff writer Dan R. Rasmussen can be reached at