The Harvard placemats

Had you heard of the Harvard placemats? I hadn’t heard of them until just now.

The Washington Post reported:

It was just a matter of time before the campus debates over free speech and racial injustice took on a festive tone.

At Harvard, this has arrived in the form of a “Holiday Placemat for Social Justice,” an initiative from the Harvard Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion which was met with a recoil and an apology from two Harvard College deans this week.

These placemats, distributed in undergraduate dining halls, offered a script for answering questions about some of the more controversial topics of the year, from “Islamaphobia [sic]/Refugees” to “Black murders in the street.”

A script. Who wants a script? Can’t people create their own scripts? Especially when they’re talking to friends and family?

For example, in response to the question under “Yale/Student activism” — “Why are Black students complaining? Shouldn’t they be happy to be in college?” — students are instructed to tell their relatives:

When I hear students expressing their experiences of racism on campus I don’t hear complaining. Instead I hear young people uplifting a situation that I may not experience. If non-Black students get the privilege of that safe environment, I believe that same privilege should be given to all students.

Are students so helpless and hapless and feeble now that they need the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to write scripts for them? Can’t they figure out what to say all by themselves? Based on the thoughts in their own head, which will have been shaped by other conversations and reading and reflection?

Also, do they need such bad scripts? “Uplifting a situation”? That’s not what “uplift” means.

A note at the bottom of the page states that the guidelines were adapted from the “Showing Up for Racial Justice Holiday Placemat” created by a national community organizing network of the same name which “moves white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability.”

Well that’s a whole different thing. It makes sense coming from a community organizing network; you know where you are with that. But coming from an office of the university and distributed at dining halls? Not so much.

Harvard Placemats Harvard Republican Club Facebook

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