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Although businessman Donald J. Trump won three states in Tuesday’s primaries, his presence as the subject of Currier House’s Housing Day video was far less welcome.
Early this week, Currier removed a Trump-themed Housing Day video after several students criticized the video’s caricature of the business mogul as offensive and unwelcoming to undergraduates. In the original video, Currier resident Joseph P. Hall ’16 dons a blonde wig and pokes fun at Harvard’s other upperclassman Houses in the style of Republican front-runner Trump.
Shortly after Currier residents screened the video, some students criticized the short, calling Currier’s affiliation with Trump—a polarizing figure whose campaign has launched verbal attacks against women and minority groups—offensive and alienating. Amid the controversy, Currier quickly removed the video, which Currier Faculty Deans and tutors had previously approved, according to House Committee member Katherine Barton ’16.
In the face of some student backlash, Currier Faculty Deans Richard W. Wrangham and Elizabeth A. Ross held what they said was an off the record town hall in Currier on Tuesday evening. Shortly following the meeting, many attendees stayed to film a second video that removed all references to Trump and featured a Bob Marley song with Currier-specific lyrics.
Although Currier officially renounced its connections to the parody, many students criticized the removal of the video.
Currier resident Aaron Grand ’18 said he felt the decision to take down the video was misinformed.
“The video clearly wasn't meant to be offensive,” Grand said. “It was meant to lampoon the guy that concerned students hate, and to take it down and having this massive outcry is a bit extreme.”
Some students argued that the removal of the video reflected a broader culture of political correctness.
“What is offensive about the video anyway, aside from the hairstyle? All that the immediate censorship does is show that we would rather maintain a stifling culture of correctness than have an honest discussion about issues,” Pforzheimer resident Fred Lu ’16 said.
In a statement sent over Currier’s House-wide email list, Wrangham and Ross wrote that they “appreciate that people with differing life experiences have different viewpoints,” adding that they were pleased to see lively debate over the video.
Still, many Currier residents said the video was hurtful, and lauded the town hall for its high attendance and participation.
Hall, the student who impersonated Trump, said that, although the video was made in good spirits, he is glad to see it replaced.
“I was asked by the House to do my Donald Trump impression, which was a product of a Halloween costume I thought was very funny and entertaining,” Hall said.
“I’m very sorry about the effect this video had on people,” Hall said. “I’m very happy Currier has found a new video to be the new Housing Day video, and I’m still very happy about the video Katherine [Barton] and I made.”
Yasmin Z. Sachee ’18, one of Currier’s Undergraduate Council representatives, said the video failed to properly account for the House’s ideological diversity.
“I personally wasn't offended by the video, but I definitely do see that the video wasn't so inclusive of all the political views on campus,” she said. “When we make a video about a House, we should try to make a video that encompases all views.”
“If anyone felt uncomfortable or marginalized, it shouldn’t be a video that is endorsing Currier House,” Paul Stainier ’18, another Currier resident, said.
Wrangham, Ross, and Avik Chatterjee '02, a race relations tutor in Currier, declined to comment on the Trump-inspired video.
—Staff writer Jalin P. Cunningham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @JalinCunningham.
—Staff writer Ignacio Sabate can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@ignacio_sabate.
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