Letter to the Editor: On Campus Inclusion, A Double Standard

To the Editor:

We write concerning The Crimson Editorial Board’s piece on Harvard’s chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi’s recent decision to go gender neutral.

Aside from the merits of the text itself, we were surprised to see the cartoon that accompanied the piece. This cartoon depicts a Jewish kid sitting in a chair smiling, with President Faust and Dean Khurana hovering over him. We find the cartoon creepy and offensive. We think that it may suggest more about the thinking prevalent on The Crimson Editorial Board than the article itself.

The hand-drawn image of a young student in bliss, benevolently watched over by a towering Faust and Khurana, contains eerie echoes of authoritarian paternalism. Somebody on The Crimson’s editorial staff should have recognized the damaging associations raised by including this cartoon. There is a long history of Jews being represented in caricature in newspaper illustrations, as well as the old stereotype of a “court Jew” cravenly seeking protection by shamefully cozying up to those in power. We do not suggest that The Crimson Editorial Board should not comment on events on campus or ever draw a Jewish figure, but this particular image calls for particular sensitivity.

We see the opposite of sensitivity. The cartoon includes an image of a kippah, a traditional Jewish prayer garment, which apparently represents AEPi. Many AEPi brothers do not actually wear kippot. Yet The Crimson Editorial Board has no problem using the stereotypical image to represent all Jews. Moreover, it places the kippah next to a Harvard baseball cap, conjuring up images of athletes choosing schools on signing day. This appears to suggest that members need to choose between their Jewish identity and a spot at the school. To be clear, we did not wake up in the morning quivering because of this tasteless cartoon. But imagine if an editorial in The Crimson had included a cartoon that uses a sombrero to represent Latino students, a keffiyeh to represent Muslim students, a conical hat to represent Asian students, or a rastacap to represent Caribbean students. There would surely be a massive uproar across campus. Dean Khurana, depicted smiling benevolently in this cartoon, would likely host an emergency town hall complete with baked goods and Play-Doh.


We have little tolerance for double standards in our community. Jewish community centers across the country are currently receiving bomb threats while we are seeing anti-Semitism surge on college campuses nationwide. This editorial was meant to celebrate a step forward in building a more inclusive campus. The cartoon that runs alongside it sends another message. Perhaps Harvard has moved backwards in the past few years. Perhaps our innumerable committees on inclusion and belonging should stop rewording lyrics and replacing parking signs long enough to ask this question— does Harvard continue to hold double standards for Jews? For now, this much remains in doubt: on a campus with a long history of anti-Semitism, it is unclear whether either Massachusetts Hall or the Editorial Board of The Crimson cares that Jews feel we have a place.

Max O. Lesser ’19 is an English concentrator in Winthrop House. Philip O. Balson ’19 is a History concentrator in Dunster House. Maximillian B. Prager ’19 is an Integrative Biology concentrator in Dunster House.


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