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By Letters


To the editors:

In regard to the Feb. 24 staff editorial entitled "Are We Fine," I would like to thank you all for running this call for more peer support. When I was a student at Harvard, I had a lot of problems and ended up in psychiatric institutions five times. In my senior year in 1976, the Phillips Brooks House Association thankfully referred me to one of the very few grassroots groups of psychiatric survivors in the area, and I interned there along with writing my senior thesis on the experience.

Since then, the field of community organizing of, by, and for people who have experienced the mental health system has become my career. I hope that people who are diagnosed with what professionals call "serious" psychiatric disorders are aware that there is a quiet but international grassroots movement of tens of thousands of us who have "been there." I would love to be in touch with anyone with a special passion about creating a peaceful revolution in how we look at mental and emotional well being.

I know breaking the silence about this topic can be challenging on campus. Thank you for calling for this openness. Let's welcome a diversity of perspectives, and transparency. Aren't those often good signs of mental and emotional well being?

David Oaks

Eugene, Oregon

David W. Oaks ’77 is the Executive Director of MindFreedom International.


To the editors:

Rachel L. Wagley’s March 28, column “Pornographic Ethics,” blurs the distinction between opinions and facts and misleads readers.

Wagley condemns the purported health consequences of pornography, citing the “research on porn addiction” of “University of Texas-San Antonio’s Dr. Donald L. Hilton Jr.” However, Hilton is a practicing physician, not a researcher. He has published no articles accessible on JSTOR. A Google search of his name reveals no other academic publications, but shows that Hilton is the author of several religiously tinged opinion pieces condemning pornography. For example, Hilton’s book He Restoreth My Soul: Understanding and Breaking the Chemical and Spiritual Chains of Pornography Addiction Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ is clearly a religious work, not a scientific one.

Nor does Hilton demonstrate good academic practice in his publicly available article, “Understanding the Addictive Nature of Pornography.” This article was published on an opinion website entitled “Combating Pornography,” not in an academic journal. Moreover, of Hilton’s twenty-four citations, none referenced a study about the purported addictive effects of pornography. Instead, he cites: studies examining addiction to other substances; a Morality in Media publication describing itself as a Mormon resource on pornography; and two religious passages. Hilton repeatedly asserts a parallel between well-known mechanisms of addiction and the consequences of pornography, but categorically fails to show it. Hilton is an ideologue, not a credible academic source about the health consequences of pornography. Wagley does readers a disservice by representing his unfounded allegations as the result of empirical research.

Wagley goes on to excoriate University Health Services and the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response for not acting on the dubious propositions she presents as incontrovertible data. Neither Hilton nor Wagley have shown any negative health consequences from pornography use, and the nonpartisan offices of the University are not obliged to engage in a campaign against an unsupported health hazard.

There is nothing inherently misleading about a purely moral argument against pornography. However, Wagley has foregone such an argument, choosing instead to guise opinion as fact.

Louis R. Evans, Eli E. Kahn, and Samuel M. Meyer

Cambridge, Mass.

Louis R. Evans '13 is a social studies concentrator. Eli E. Kahn ’13 is a slavic languages and literatures concentrator. Samuel M. Meyer '13 is an astrophysics concentrator. They all live in Currier House.


To the editors:

Peter J. Gomes was never easy to label.

Conservative evangelicals were quick to criticize the firebrand liberalism he occasionally displayed during his long tenure as Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard University. And yet a photograph of Billy Graham, hero to evangelicals across the globe, towered above all others on the shelf behind Gomes’s stately office desk.

His high assessment of Reverend Graham stemmed from a terribly difficult period that began when Gomes announced in 1991 that he was “a Christian who happens as well to be gay.”

Immediately after he announced his homosexuality, several student detractors formed a group called Concerned Christians at Harvard, and with fifty members in their ranks, they held prayer vigils, wrote letters, and pamphleteered, all for the purpose of seeking Gomes’s resignation.

It was a low moment for the man who loved Harvard with all his heart and mind and soul. Many longtime friends remained silent, too. Gomes would endure the silent treatment for years to come from some of his old friends, and as I sat with him in his office last spring, it was clear that the memory of deserted friends still stung.

But his deep frown stood in the sharpest of contrasts to the warm smile he beamed when he looked at the photograph of Billy Graham.

Gomes invited Graham to speak at Memorial Church several years after the Harvard chaplain had come out. The two were not of one mind about homosexuality, of course.

In some ways, Graham was theologically closer to the Concerned Christians than he was to Gomes. But unlike those student activists, Billy Graham, at the seasoned age of 80, ascended Memorial Church’s mahogany pulpit in 1999 and publicly announced that Peter Gomes was his friend and brother in Christ.

Gomes, no doubt, smiled—and believed.

Michael G. Long

Elizabethtown, Penn.

Michael G. Long, is an associate professor of peace and conflict studies at Elizabethtown College.

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