Earlier this month, Martin Peretz — owner and editor in chief of the frequently-liberal New Republic magazine — wrote a blogpost suggesting that “Muslim life is cheap” and that it was time to stop “pretend[ing] that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment.”
He’s since sort-of apologized, but he’s said this kind of thing before, and anyway like I say the apology was pretty half-hearted.
But it turns out that Harvard University plans to honor Peretz by naming a student research fund after him, and that the fund is supposed to be formally announced at a big gala this Saturday. Various members of the Harvard community have raised a stink about this plan since the current story broke, but Harvard seems to be sticking with it.
Now, though, the presidents of five student of color groups at Harvard –the Islamic Society, RAZA, the Harvard Society of Arab Students, Latinas Unidas, and the Black Student Union — are asking the university to reconsider.
In an open letter released Thursday, the students point out that Peretz has made offensive comments about Latinos…
“[Mexico is] a Latin society with all of its characteristic deficiencies: congenital corruption, authoritarian government, anarchic politics, near-tropical work habits, stifling social mores, Catholic dogma with the usual unacknowledged compromises, an anarchic counter-culture and increasingly violent modes of conflict.”
“So many in the black population are afflicted by cultural deficiencies … in the ghetto a lot of mothers don’t appreciate the importance of schooling … a mother who is on crack is in no position to help her children get through school.”
…in the past, and argue that the Harvard honor “lends legitimacy and respectability to views that can only be described as abhorrent and racist.”
Harvard’s first statement on the controversy declared that “it is central to the mission of a university to protect and affirm free speech, including the rights of Dr. Peretz, as well as those who disagree with him, to express their views,” but the students of color letter points out that free speech is not the issue here. “We acknowledge Mr. Peretz’s right to hold and express these views,” they wrote, but object “to Harvard giving such ideas a platform, and … worry that in so doing the University, and the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies in particular, will be alienating a large segment of its student body.”
The students have asked Harvard to “reconsider having Mr. Peretz as one of the Celebration’s speakers, or at least [require] that he be publicly challenged to defend views that are, in our opinion, indefensible.”
The Harvard Crimson reported this morning that the director of the program that is honoring Peretz declined to comment for their article, except to say that the program’s governing committee would be releasing a statement on the matter later today.
Tuesday | The Crimson is now reporting that Peretz has been scrubbed from the speaker’s list for Saturday’s gala.