Letter to the Editor: In Defense of European Studies

To the editor:

I was ecstatic to have received an email over the summer announcing the creation of a secondary field in European History, Politics, and Societies. Perfect, I thought to myself. I am an American who lived for five years abroad in Luxembourg as a child. I am proficient in French and am learning to speak Spanish. I have familial connections to Germany and Ireland.

My main academic interests center around international relations and European society, too. While my concentration, Social Studies, is able to combine with other regional concentrations as joint concentrations, including African and African American Studies; the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality; East Asian Studies; and South Asian Studies, a joint concentration between Social Studies and Romance Studies is currently impossible due to a dearth of departmental course offerings. Finally, I believed, Harvard was offering me the opportunity to combine my personal and academic narratives under one coherent secondary program. Harvard was listening to me.

Flash forward to now, as I read the Crimson article “European Secondary Frustrates Advocates for Ethnic Studies.” I recognize the need for the creation of a range of ethnic studies secondary programs. I wholeheartedly support those fighting to have such programs realized. Harvard is lagging behind its peers in this regard.

However, if I were to write that the creation of another ethnic studies field prior to the creation of a European Studies field was personally disheartening, redundant, frustrating, or hurtful, others would not hesitate to castigate me. If The Crimson were to publish such a story, it too would be admonished. This is certainly a double standard.


I trust those quoted in the article bear no ill will to me or the countless other students at Harvard of European descent. Despite their intent, however, I find their comments disrespectful. The existence of a European Studies secondary is not mutually exclusive with other ethnic studies fields, and people should not disdain the creation of one in the absence of another. Let us recognize that what one may find personally frustrating is a boon to another, and that language carries implications for which we all are responsible.

W. Tanner Gildea ’19 lives in Winthrop House.