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Editorials

When It Comes to Belonging on Campus, Acceptance Is All or Nothing

Lowell House is one of 12 upperclassmen houses at Harvard.
Lowell House is one of 12 upperclassmen houses at Harvard. By Addison Y. Liu
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

Our new, in-person term has not escaped the now familiar pitfalls of online quarrels. Last week, an event for the rather controversial Harvard College Faith and Action was publicized on Lowell House’s unmoderated email list. Several indignant students quickly responded, criticizing the organization — which describes itself as “a gospel-centered community that welcomes students from all backgrounds” — for an alleged history of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.

The students are not exactly wrong on the facts. In 2017, HCFA leadership urged the resignation of a female bisexual student-leader from her role as Assistant Bible Course Leader after learning that she was in a same-sex relationship. A year later, Harvard placed the organization on a year-long administrative probation. Following the decision, our board opined that the student’s removal from leadership constituted a morally egregious act, affirming the sanctions levied by the College. However, we also felt that the College’s probation measures — which still allowed HCFA to hold regular meetings — were completely insufficient.

In last week’s email thread, a current leader in Harvard’s Undergraduate Association and HCFA leader defended the organization, stating that “all are welcome at HCFA Doxa, Bible Course, and all other Events, regardless of their sexual orientation, race, or religious identity.” Sharp (and fairly justified) questioning of the HCFA’s ability to stay true to those promises ensued. Given its recent history and current concerns posed by students on campus, HCFA should explicitly re-affirm its commitment to fostering an inclusive campus as a student organization — and make public any evidence of the reform or progress that followed their 2017 debacle.

The current controversy also raises a question about the ofttimes ambiguous role of HUA members. HUA leaders are not meant to be — and should emphatically not be treated as — sources of moral guidance. That strays much too far from their role description. For us, the job of a HUA representative is singular and simple: fund our student clubs and organizations in a timely and efficient fashion. Harvard outsiders and over-eager media outlets might assume otherwise, might attempt to paint them as chosen ideologues or imagined messiahs that define our campus' moral outlook. Yet, as actual Harvard students, we know that is hardly the case: None of our peers are looking at the HUA for ethical guidance.

Of course, as individuals, HUA leaders preserve the right to express their beliefs and state their opinions at their own discretion. They should do so, however, while remaining cognizant of their positionality as student body leaders, of the exaggerated impact and scrutiny linked to their words. In our board's view, as our elected representatives, the extent to which HUA members are relevant in the present discussion comes down to club funding — and we strongly do not believe that the HUA should fund clubs that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people or any identity groups.

Discrimination, in our opinion, includes the denial of one’s identity and entitled expectations that one could and should hide some parts of their identity for the convenience of others. Some people and organizations on this campus may attempt to separate individuals from their queerness — to condemn non-heterosexual relationships but somehow support the individuals themselves. We vehemently disagree. Any attempt to separate people from their LGBTQ+ identities in order to attack the latter is a disingenuous attempt at inclusive self-delusion at best, and a lackluster disguise for homophobia at worst. One cannot accept someone in spite of their core identity; either we accept people in their fullness, or we don’t. We cannot and should not negotiate others’ identities — religious, sexual, racial, or other — for our own comfort.

The queer community, at Harvard and everywhere else, should not have to alienate themselves from their queerness in order to feel comfortable and included within organizations and spaces. Queer students at Harvard, being members of our community, deserve the same transformational experiences and intellectual enrichment they enrolled for. However, individual acts of discrimination that begin with expectations of how queer students ought to behave foster a toxic campus culture that dampens said extraordinary experiences. Our bottom line is simple: this Editorial Board strongly condemns the actions of any organization that discriminates against the LGBTQ+ community in this way or in any other way. This campus should be one of acceptance and inclusion, and we urge every student and organization to reaffirm this through their actions.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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