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Students and Faculty Report Hate Speech, Harassment Around Harvard After Election

More than 100 supporters gather on the steps of Widener Library to advocate for the defense of undocumented students at Harvard.
More than 100 supporters gather on the steps of Widener Library to advocate for the defense of undocumented students at Harvard.
By Marella A. Gayla, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: November 23, 2016, at 12:20 a.m.

A handful of University affiliates have reported incidents of harassment around Harvard’s campus, echoing a nationwide uptick in hate speech after Donald Trump’s election.

Trump’s victory has sparked fear and outrage across Harvard’s campus, particularly among students of color who say they feel targeted by Trump’s incendiary rhetoric. Several undocumented students have expressed concern about their futures and families because of Trump’s policy proposals that include deporting people en masse and barring immigrants from entering the United States.

More than 100 students held a rally in support of undocumented students.
More than 100 students held a rally in support of undocumented students. By Thomas W. Franck

According to Romance Languages and Literatures Department Chair Mariano Siskind, two teaching fellows were verbally harassed on the basis of their immigration status in Harvard Square last Tuesday. Later that night, a faculty member was attacked with hot coffee and racial slurs near the Harvard Art Museums, Siskind said.

Siskind reported the latter incident to administrators that night. According to Siskind, Harvard’s General Counsel Robert W. Iuliano put the faculty member in contact with the Harvard University Police Department to “discuss any continuing concerns and explore available law enforcement options.”

“There’s just no training for situations like this,” Siskind said. “We are pretty shaken, and we are still trying to figure out what comes next.”

Siskind and two other professors in the department authored an editorial in The Crimson describing instances of racist harassment against faculty and teaching staff. In the editorial, they decried “the racist, xenophobic, misogynistic state of affairs sanctioned by the most recent presidential election.”

The Romance Languages and Literatures faculty has been particularly vocal about its support of undocumented immigrants since Trump’s victory. It was one of the first departments to endorse a petition calling for the protection of undocumented students at Harvard. Lorgia H. García Peña, an assistant professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, guided students in Spanish 126: “Performing Latinidad” in organizing a rally for undocumented students on the steps of Widener Library.

“Many of us are immigrants, many of us are being outspoken about our support for undocumented immigrants on campus,” Sergio Delgado, an associate professor and co-author of the editorial, said. “It makes a lot of members of our department vulnerable to these kinds of attacks.”

Hiram J. Ríos Hernandez, a graduate student at the Kennedy School of Government, said he was harassed by a Trump supporter outside the Hong Kong restaurant on Nov. 10, two days after the election. According to Ríos Hernandez, a middle-aged man approached him as he waited for an Uber, saying, “We’re going to make America great again.”

“He said, ‘let me see your papers, get out of my country and go back to Mexico,’” Ríos Hernandez, an American citizen of Puerto Rican descent, said. “He charged at me like he wanted to tackle me.”

Ríos Hernandez was leaving a gathering for the Kennedy School’s Latino Caucus when the alleged attack took place. He had attended a formal event earlier that night, and was dressed in a tuxedo at the time.

“I bawled when I got in the Uber,” Ríos Hernandez said. “I can be in a tux, I can be at Harvard, I can be at the beacon of democracy and liberalism and still have this happen to me.”

Wonik Son ’19, an active Crimson editorial executive, said he was verbally harassed by a man in a passing taxi in Boston three days after the election. At a busy intersection, the passenger rolled down his window and shouted obscenities at Son and mocked him for being in a wheelchair.

During his presidential campaign, Trump ridiculed a disabled reporter during a rally in South Carolina. Son said that the president-elect’s actions made such discrimination seem “permissible now, to a different degree than it was before.”

“I’ve always experienced tacit forms of discrimination,” Son said. “But there was something different about this in that it was so blatant and public in nature.”

Last week, University President Drew G. Faust sent an email to students, faculty, and staff about “escalating numbers of cruel and frightening incidents” that have occurred across the country since the election.

On Monday, Harvard University Police Department Chief Francis D. Riley sent an email encouraging Harvard affiliates to report bias-related incidents and hate crimes to HUPD.

Riley also clarified that HUPD does not inquire about the immigration status of affiliates as the University’s police force is not involved in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

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