Harvard Black Mass: Yet Another Statement Revision from Harvard: UPDATE President’s Statement

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Harvard Black Mass: Yet Another Statement Revision from Harvard: UPDATE President's Statement

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

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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 culturalstudiesclub@​gmail.​com.

This is the ulti­mate Pon­tius Pilate moment, no longer is the con­tact jeff_​neal@​harvard.​edu if you want to send com­plaints send it to that e-​mail account we at Har­vard wash our hands of the whole thing.

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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.

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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.

Period!

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

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

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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 culturalstudiesclub@gmail.com.

This is the ultimate Pontius Pilate moment, no longer is the contact   jeff_neal@harvard.edu if you want to send complaints send it to that e-mail account we at Harvard wash our hands of the whole thing.

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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.

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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.

Period!

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