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Columns

My First and Last Day as an Undocumented Crimson Editor

From sanctuary campus to requesting comment from ICE, The Crimson has never prioritized the needs of undocumented students.

By Laura S. Veira-Ramirez, Crimson Opinion Writer
Laura S. Veira-Ramírez ’20, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a joint concentrator in History and Literature and Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality in Leverett House. Her column appears on alternate Mondays.

Editor’s Note:

The Crimson Editorial Board seeks to provide a platform for multiple and diverse perspectives on issues affecting Harvard. The Board is a diverse group of editors who strive to critically evaluate our past opinions and opine on topics for our readership to consider. In the spirit of open debate and expression — as well as providing a forum in The Crimson’s opinion pages where all perspectives are welcome — we are publishing this column.

— Jessenia N. Class ’20, Editorial Chair

— Robert Miranda ’20, Editorial Chair

— Kristine E. Guillaume ’20, President

My first Crimson staff editorial meeting as an active editor was in December 2016. I had gone through the semester-long comp process, which included submitting and editing my eight pieces to join the Editorial Board. In joining The Crimson, I saw the opportunity to share my voice through a medium that would allow me to write op-eds and learn how to defend my opinions. And of course, as many other freshmen, I wanted to make new friends.

But for that first meeting, my identity and safety were on the docket. On that day, I learned that the majority of the people present were not in my corner and would not be my friends.

Exactly one month after the 2016 presidential election that shook the entire undocumented community, the Editorial Board was opining on former University President Drew G. Faust’s decision to not declare Harvard a sanctuary campus — a campaign I had been working on with fellow undocumented students and allies amidst the sleepless nights full of anxiety and fear.

Earlier that month, undocumented students from across the University pled our case during a meeting with Faust. In my view, Faust turned her back on us when she did not decide to make Harvard a sanctuary campus, undermining our fears and patronizingly claiming she knew what was best for us.

That night in The Crimson, the room also failed to show up for undocumented students.

Some comments on the matter seemed hopeful. Then more comments against my opinion — against me — started joining the conversation, each new voice erasing the very real challenges my community was facing.

I finally interjected, feeling forced to share my immigration status with a room full of strangers. My comment came across shakily as I was one of the newest members, but I felt a duty to contribute to this conversation in a room full of students who, for the most part, had the privilege of being able to view this issue “objectively.” They had no stake in the matter, but also had no qualms when it came to speaking over my lived experiences.

But the conversation continued downhill, and the attacks against my opinion felt personal as I was the only undocumented person in the room. It was clear who was against me as hands went up in the vote for the final pitch. Their faces carried no remorse as their votes supported a pitch devaluing the efforts of the sanctuary push.

I continued with The Crimson, hoping I could bring some change to it. I penned a dissent with two other Crimson editors on this very issue. I wanted to see the dissents become majority opinion and, to some extent, they did. I saw the Board grow more liberal throughout the years, though I’ve also seen some of the radical voices driven away once they experience actual meetings like the first one I had witnessed.

The power dynamics of the organization are clearly seen in Editorial Board meetings. At every meeting, the more center voices take their places at the center table and back of the room, comfortable in their black chairs. The more liberal voices concentrate around the outer table, where we sit cross-legged and uncomfortable in more ways than physically. The people at this “counter,” as we were once labeled during a meeting, consists of most of people of color and queer members of the Board. We’ve held our ground for so long, winning some battles along the way, but the environment of the building has become more and more toxic.

I stopped going to meetings this semester as I put my energy into things that matter most to me. I kept my column going because it was my individual work, but I am quitting completely now due to The Crimson’s reminder to me that it does not support undocumented students on this campus by undermining the fears that come with requesting comment from United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement — just like the Editorial Board undermined mine the day they decided we did not need a sanctuary campus.

The Crimson hides behind its claim of “unbiased” journalism to justify its decision to request comment from ICE, the U.S. deportation machine, for comment on a matter that doesn’t affect those in leadership. The power dynamic shows through again as leadership clings to objectivity and transparency, losing valuable editors and straining relationships with undocumented students and affinity groups.

The Crimson cannot continue to hide from the many things wrong with the organization. Objectivity is patronizing in inferring people can be objective at all. While the organization is separate from Harvard, it is clear this is the population they are meant to serve. Instead of conforming to oppressive journalistic norms, The Crimson should be more concerned with its relationships on campus.

I’ll be surprised if this piece gets published. But even if it doesn’t, I’ll find another medium to share it. Either way, I end this piece by announcing my last day as a Crimson editor. The Crimson has made it clear that it is not and has never been worthy of my time and labor.

Laura S. Veira-Ramírez ’20, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a joint concentrator in History and Literature and Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality in Leverett House. Her column appears on alternate Mondays.

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