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Op Eds

Taking Responsibility for Our Silence When Speaking Is Hard

By Jasmine M. Green, Crimson Opinion Writer
Jasmine M. Green ’24, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a Social Studies concentrator in Lowell House.

Six weeks ago, three days after Israel declared war on Hamas, a billboard truck equipped with blinding LED screens circled around Harvard Square, flashing the names and faces of our classmates beneath the headline “Harvard’s Leading Antisemites.” This truck was one of the first noticeable displays of what has become a month-long harassment campaign against outspoken pro-Palestinian Harvard students.

In its recent staff editorial titled “Defending Speech When Speaking Is Hard,” The Crimson’s Editorial Board criticizes Harvard for insufficiently protecting doxxed students and lambasts the “weak-willed waffling” of University leaders, all of which has sowed greater division during this period of friction and distrust.

And yet, as The Crimson’s Editorial Board — of which I am a member — scrutinized the University, we neglected to direct this critical lens to ourselves. Indeed, yesterday’s staff editorial was the first time the Editorial Board weighed in on the campus controversies surrounding the Israel-Hamas war since its onset.

During our uncharacteristic hiatus, tensions at Harvard have worsened in tandem with the war; the Yard was closed to the public due to cautions over student safety, a pro-Palestinian proctor was indefinitely relieved of his duties with opaque justification, and a group of pro-Palestinian Jewish students and allies staged a 24-hour sit-in at University Hall to pressure Harvard to call for a ceasefire, among other demands.

These are but a few examples of what has devolved into one of the most politically charged moments of our university’s memory — an intense series of compounding events that the Editorial Board refused to discuss for over a month.

That silence was a mistake. The Crimson Editorial Board should have condemned the harassment of our classmates sooner. Instead, we waited and waited, choosing only now to fulfill our duty to opine in response to significant campus events.

While the Opinion section has run multiple ideologically opposed opinion pieces since the start of the war, this is no call for praise. Publishing a diverse array of op-eds is the bare minimum of a credible newspaper; to do otherwise would raise obvious concerns of bias and censorship.

Op-eds, by definition, reflect the views of individuals, not the Board as a whole. Until this week, it appears that we have hidden behind individual writers to deflect our responsibility to produce a collective stance.

I want to believe that student journalists join the Editorial Board because we understand the importance of an institutional voice. We meet tri-weekly and talk at each other, sometimes for 90-plus minutes, because we believe that our voices, in unison, have the power to effect change. At the very least, I hope we care that each published editorial updates the 150-year-old written record of who we are and what we stand for.

But there is no record of what we thought when the doxxing truck first appeared on Oct. 11. Or on Oct. 14, when more than 1,000 people assembled in the Yard to protest the impending ground invasion of Gaza. Or on Oct. 30, when Adam Guillette, president of the organization that operated the doxxing truck, called members of the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee “cockroaches” on national television. Or on Nov. 9, when University President Claudine Gay blanketly condemned a political chant for Palestinian liberation without acknowledging the full historical complexities behind it.

Journalism depreciates in value each day that it is tardy. Our inexcusably late arrival, absent of due explanation, suddenly bursts forth in a sanctimonious ruling. Our words — yes, even strong words — are not gospel. Nothing stated in our most recent staff editorial is novel or inventive. It contains little insight we could not have delivered six weeks ago, apart from fresh examples of our divided community.

And, in spite of its high-mindedness, our editorial pales in comparison to what our peers have already done. Since the war began, Harvard students and faculty have staged die-ins, curated moving public art installations, hosted touching vigils, and mobilized against injustice every single day. These actions, exemplary of the swift and persistent courage of our peers, are worthy beyond their value as anecdotes for The Crimson Editorial Board to belatedly hyperlink.

We can tout ourselves as intellectual, clear headed journalists, but when it was time to undertake the full responsibility of any publication worth its salt — which is not only to speak when it is hard but to do so with punctuality — we failed. And more than that, we abdicated the most important duty of a student newspaper: to serve our peers.

The Crimson Editorial Board should never perch quietly above the issues that impact our community. When our campus suffers, we must speak.

And if we delay this duty — a grave error at this crucial time — we must explain why. That is the least we owe to our readership and to our peers. So fault endures, still, in our refusal to admit we were wrong. I won’t hesitate to do so.

Jasmine M. Green ’24, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a Social Studies concentrator in Lowell House.

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Op Eds