Harvard is now up to its 3rd revision of its “official response” to the Harvard Black Mass scheduled for tonight. As this statement doesn’t acknowledge the previous statements or that anything has been revised, rather than just posting it I’m going to fisk it. My comments in Red italic
The following statement was issued by Robert Neugeboren, dean of students and alumni affairs at Harvard Extension School:
The first major change is the inclusion of an actual named person rather than something just unsigned. Apparently it is better for one man to take the heat than the entire university.
Students at the Harvard Extension School, like students at colleges across the nation, organize and operate a number of independent student organizations, representing a wide range of student interests. The Harvard Extension School does not endorse the views or activities of any independent student organization. But we do support the rights of our students and faculty to speak and assemble freely.
This is pretty much the original first two paragraphs slightly rearranged and it sounds just as weaisly. Not only do you have the vanilla 1st amendment defense but note how Harvard suddenly becomes just like “colleges across the nation” rather that THE elite university of the United States
In this case, we understand that this independent student organization, the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club, is hosting a series of events—including the reenactment of a “Black Mass”—as part of a student-led effort to explore different cultures.
Yea the Black Mass is just one of MANY student events. but gone are the comparisons to the Shinto Tea Ceremonies, Shaker events and Buddhist Meditation. The sudden need to no longer mention these events in the same breath as the Black Mass illustrates that the Black Mass is not just another cultural event
We do not agree with the student group’s decision to stage an event that is so deeply disturbing and offensive to many in the Harvard community and beyond.
Translation: After a weekend of national coverage that has not been favorable having no opinion o this event is no longer tenable, and note the use of the word “we” who is “we”? Is it we the university, we the exchange club, we the people fielding the phone calls from all over the nation?
While we support the ability of all our students to explore difficult issues, we also encourage them to do so in ways that are sensitive to others.
If you are going to mock Roman Catholic belief, you need to do it in a sensitive way.
To that end, the Harvard Extension School has worked with the club’s student leaders to address specific concerns that have been expressed. For instance, we have ensured that no consecrated host will be used as part of the reenactment.
How have you “ensured this?” What steps have you taken? Does that not suggest that Harvard is participating in the event in a supervisory manner as the Romans did at the crucifixion?
Also, in an effort to help broaden the educational nature of this series, the Harvard Extension School has urged the Cultural Studies Club’s student leaders to reach out to Catholic student organizations on campus to foster a positive dialogue about the Catholic faith. The club’s student leaders have agreed to this proposal.
If the cultural club was holding a minstrel show in blackface as an “educational” event, would having the club “reach out” to campus Black organizations without cancelling the event be an acceptable choice?
We hope these efforts and this dialogue will help address some of the most severe concerns about the event,
We hope that you crazy Christians stop calling and e-mailing us and about this event, we said we didn’t’ like it ….we said we don’t like it, isn’t that enough
while also helping students in the Cultural Studies Club better understand the perspective of many Catholics on these and other issues.
You guys better not put us on the spot like this again, especially if it risks donor dollars are put at risk.
Questions about the event should be directed to the Cultural Studies Club at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is the ultimate Pontius Pilate moment, no longer is the contact email@example.com if you want to send complaints send it to that e-mail account we at Harvard wash our hands of the whole thing.
This statement is another exercise in sophistry. They “do not agree” and say the club should be “sensitive” but are not willing to call the event “wrong” or “insensitive”. They claim they are making sure the that a consecrated host is not being used while trying to distance themselves from an event being held on the Harvard Campus by a club bearing Harvard’s name as if they have no power to do anything about it. Finally they not only redirect complaints from the adults at the university who are supposed to be in charge but to a gmail account that one might not even associate with the university.
This is what THE elite university in the nation is reduced to.
Why any person who professes belief in Christ would pay money to send their child to be educated by these people is beyond me.
Update: the President of Harvard has five days after the story broke weighed in,
The reenactment of a ‘black mass’ planned by a student group affiliated with the Harvard Extension School challenges us to reconcile the dedication to free expression at the heart of a university with our commitment to foster a community based on civility and mutual understanding.
No it doesn’t, it questions if Harvard will allow a club that bears its name to hold the Black Mass on their property.
Vigorous and open discussion and debate are essential to the pursuit of knowledge, and we must uphold these values even in the face of controversy. Freedom of expression, as Justice Holmes famously said long ago, protects not only free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.
This isn’t a debate, this isn’t a protest, this is an event being held on Harvard’s property sponsored by a Harvard club. If it was just about education the club could have gone off campus and visited The Satanic Temple’s location and observed the Black Mass there. Nor is it a question of thought, nobody is complaining about Harvard’s thoughts, they are talking about Harvard’s actions.
But even as we permit expression of the widest range of ideas, we must also take responsibility for debating and challenging expression with which we profoundly disagree.
Again this isn’t a “debate about ideas”.or engaging in protest against the church and it’s beliefs. It is a specific ceremony, a proactive action against Christians in general & Catholics in particular.
The ‘black mass’ had its historical origins as a means of denigrating the Catholic Church; it mocks a deeply sacred event in Catholicism, and is highly offensive to many in the Church and beyond. The decision by a student club to sponsor an enactment of this ritual is abhorrent; it represents a fundamental affront to the values of inclusion, belonging and mutual respect that must define our community.
This is the best part of the statement, gone is the “disagree” from above replaced by actual words of condemnation.
It is deeply regrettable that the organizers of this event, well aware of the offense they are causing so many others, have chosen to proceed with a form of expression that is so flagrantly disrespectful and inflammatory.
Not as regrettable as Harvard choosing to allow this event by a Harvard club to be held on campus.
Nevertheless, consistent with the University’s commitment to free expression, including expression that may deeply offend us, the decision to proceed is and will remain theirs.
I am innocent of this man’s blood…
At the same time, we will vigorously protect the right of others to respond—and to address offensive expression with expression of their own.
The suggestion that we who intended to respond to this event needed our right to do so to be protected by Harvard is both laughable & disingenuous.
I plan to attend a Eucharistic Holy Hour and Benediction at St. Paul’s Church on our campus on Monday evening in order to join others in reaffirming our respect for the Catholic faith at Harvard
You and everyone else who comes would be most welcome, but a better demonstration of that respect would be using your power to not allow the Black Mass on campus
and to demonstrate that the most powerful response to offensive speech is not censorship, but reasoned discourse and robust dissent.
Apples and orange this is a dodge.
Let me conclude by saying this is by far the best statement from Harvard. It comes from the president on the main Harvard site and it, unlike previous statements explicitly acknowledges what the Black Mass is, what it is intended to do and why it is wrong. Compared to Harvard’s previous response it is a great improvement.
However that statement, in all its glory is sophistry, it draws a false equivalency to excuse inaction.
The president is correct that as a rule, the best answer to offensive speech is more speech. People do not have the right to not be offended and the best way to deal with that kind of speech is to produce speech of your own.
However this is not speech being made by a group of people in the public square, or online or a debate show. Nor is this a protest being held against the church, its beliefs or positions. If it was it would be protected speech and no matter how offensive such speech might be it must be allowed under the First Amendment and the principles of academic freedom.
This is instead a specific event with a specific meaning being held by a club that bears Harvard’s name at a venue on the Harvard Campus that Harvard’s President has decided to allow.
Furthermore the propose of this statement all about mitigating the outrage that this event is producing while providing Ms. Faust cover to refrain from using the power & authority entrusted to her.
It’s not a statement it’s an excuse and frankly unworthy of the president of the most prominent university in the United States .
President Faust’s presence at the Holy Hour not withstanding if the Black Mass takes place on campus it should end with Ms. Faust’s resignation.
Update: Ed Morrissey isn’t buying it either:
Well, if Faust finds it “abhorrent” and a “fundamental affront,” why not force its cancellation? The ceremony — excuse me, performance art — will take place in a pub on university grounds, and the club is affiliated with the university. Harvard claims it can’t do anything about it on the grounds of intellectual freedom, but local priests scoff at that notion, especially given the intentionally sacrilegious nature of the black mass. One priest wondered whether Harvard would allow a re-enactment of a KKK ceremony as educational