Harvard Club’s New Recruiting Flyer: ‘Jews Need Not Apply’

The Pigeon’s flyer @ The Harvard Crimson

Ah, the Ivy League. It’s classic architecture, vaunted reputation, stellar academics and…blatant, ugly racism.

It would seem, in this age of instant and saturated media, that anyone, anywhere, with any brains whatsoever, would know that anything they do that merits attention – whether good or bad – is going to get it. More, likely, than they might even want.

Which leads one to ponder what the Harvard men involved were thinking when they slipped sealed envelopes under the dorm room doors of select students being recruited to their new club, the “Pigeon.” It’s not the invitation that invites incredulity; it’s the content. As reported by the Huffington Post:

 At the top of the pamphlet, three virtues: Inclusion, Diversity, Love were listed with three respective footnotes at the bottom of the page. Inclusion’s was “Jews need not apply.” Diversity’s was “Seriously, no f***ing Jews. Coloreds OK,” and Love’s was “Rophynol” — probably a misspelling of the date-rape drug rohypnol.

Must make a parent, teacher, Dean, school community, etc., so proud of these privileged young men for showing such stellar judgment and integrity; clearly a product of their extraordinary education purchased at great cost and wrapped in impeachable regard worldwide.

Or not.

While it’s despicable that anyone would not only think this way, but would casually print such idiotic, bigoted trash on a public document being disseminated to others, there is something particularly galling about this sort of base, vile activity coming from a place that is purported to embody the very highest ideals of American thinking and education.

And for those not schooled on the extracurriculars of the mystical Ivy League, let’s get you up-to-speed. Apparently there are long-running traditions, specifically at Harvard, of clubs defined as “final clubs…so named because they were the last social club a person could join before graduation.” Apparently at Harvard there are eight all-male clubs, originally established over the last hundred years or so, with five all-female clubs more recently, all with names suggestive of animals (hence, likely, this newest clubs assignation of “Pigeon.”) If interested, you can click here to get a run-down of each of the clubs and their history.

What is notable about the clubs is their historical and continuing relationship with controversy, typically related to racial exclusivity, sexism (now somewhat ameliorated with the burgeoning presence of female-only clubs), sexual assault, or most publicly, political impact. This from Wikipedia:

In January 2006 national attention focused on the Harvard final club system as a result of the confirmation hearings of Samuel Alito. Alito came under criticism as a result of his membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton, a conservative group that opposed affirmative action and the admission of women into Princeton. One of the leading Democrats highlighting this charge was Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. Conservatives, however, responded by pointing out Kennedy’s membership in the Owl Club of Harvard. As a result of the political fallout, Senator Kennedy left the club.

In August of that same year, Massachusetts Democratic Gubernatorial candidate (and now Governor) Deval Patrick came under fire for his membership in the Fly Club.[11] Critics viewed Patrick’s membership in the club as contradictory to his image as a champion of civil rights. Patrick countered that he had left the club in the early 1980s when he realized that it contradicted his values, although the club itself had Patrick’s name on its roster as late as 2006.

So perhaps it is in keeping with the tainted image of these clubs that the “Pigeon” come out now, at the conclusion of 2012 and its “empowerment of the people” exemplified by the re-election of Barack Obama, to proselytize their message of ignorance and bigotry. It is remarkable to juxtapose this activity at an Ivy League college with earlier statements made by certain high profile Republicans like Ann Romney on the “state” of our nation’s public schools. From the Daily Kos:

“I’ve been a First Lady of the State. I have seen what happens to people’s lives if they don’t get a proper education. And we know the answers to that. The charter schools have provided the answers. The teachers’ unions are preventing those things from happening, from bringing real change to our educational system. We need to throw out the system.”

Throw out the public school system.

It’s trendy, it seems, to dismiss and disrespect the hard work of public school teachers, the unions that protect them; the parents that collaborate with them to make the schools the best they can be, even with limited funding. And while the public school system clearly has many problems, often related to that limited funding, a great many brilliant, accomplished and successful people have come up out of the system Mrs. Romney wants to “throw out.”

Which makes it all the more galling that a school system that does garner accolades, a stellar reputation, inestimable funds, and the respect of high-profile people in the arenas of politics and business – the Ivy League – seems, despite its “proper education,” beset by the smallest and most ignorant of minds. The kind that would fashion a club called the Pigeon whose three virtues are described as:

Inclusion: Jews need not apply.

Diversity: Seriously, no f***ing Jews. Coloreds OK.

Love: Rophynol (sic).

Brilliant minds who couldn’t even get the spelling of the infamous date-rape drug spelled right. Ignorant and stupid.

The Harvard Crimsonin its piece on the story, states that the university’s Dean of Students, Evelynn M. Hammonds, did not take kindly to the flyers once they came to her attention. Included in the paper was her emailed statement:

As Dean of the College, and as an educator, I find these flyers offensive. They are not a reflection of the values of our community. Even if intended as satirical in nature, they are hurtful and offensive to many students, faculty and staff, and do not demonstrate the level of thoughtfulness and respect we expect at Harvard when engaging difficult issues within our community.

The Crimson also explored the suggestion that the flyers were satire, playing off the reputation of the clubs as racially exclusive and insensitive:

The mock invitations distributed at Harvard drew a swift response from College administrators, who summoned at least one student organization leader on Friday as they began investigating the incident.

Owen T. L. Bates ’13, president of the Harvard Lampoon, adamantly said his organization had “nothing to do with” the flyers, which he said were “basely crass” in a tone inconsistent with the Lampoon’s style of “pretentiously crass” humor. Still, he said he received an email and a phone call from the Office of Student Life on Friday morning asking him to meet with Interim Associate Dean of Student Life David R. Friedrich. When they met midday on Friday, Bates said, Friedrich indicated that the conversation was prompted in part by speculation in the comments section of an earlier version of this article that the Lampoon, a semi-secret Sorrento Square social organization that used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine, may have been responsible for the incident.

Though many Harvard community members guessed that the flyers were an attempt at satire of the exclusive all-male final clubs, they roundly condemned the inflammatory references in the invitations.

Satire, sincere, or just sick, the flyers are a disturbing reminder that despite the many cultural advances in the arena of racial and ethnic politics, bigotry still flows in the undercurrent of even places of highest esteem.

Harvard’s original motto, reflective of its religious origins, was Truth, for Christ and the Church. Its current motto has been shortened to one word: “Veritas”…Truth.

Perhaps the Pigeons ought to give that motto a bit more thought. There is little about their public image that seems in keeping with Truth’s most noble intent.

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