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Oh. My. God.

I'd forgotten how often we saw Magritte

mucha mosaic

Oh. My. God.

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mucha mosaic
So I went and read a bit of documentary evidence about Harvard having basically driven students to suicide by threatening to out them to their families in the 20's.

You should read this too. You should make your friends read this. You should keep this story close at hand.

Because that way, you will always have a good answer to 'why do those queers need a parade?' ready at hand. Without society containing queer members openly- not necessarily happily, but at least knowing they're there and giving them space to be there- we'd have a fuckton more corpses than the one suicide mentioned in this story.

Harvard’s Dark Secret
Secret Court Banned Homosexuals From University 80 Years Ago

B O S T O N, Jan. 8 — The roaring '20s was a time of experimentation and change, yet homophobia was strong in society and its institutions, even at Harvard.
Today, Harvard University is recognized as one of the more liberal institutions in the country, but back in 1920, things were very different.
While doing research on a another story last summer, Amit Paley, a reporter for Harvard University's Crimson newspaper, stumbled upon a file marked "Secret Court Files, 1920," in the university's archives.

The discovery led Paley to 500 pages of documents that described an underground court that convened to investigate and expel gay students.

‘Taint Other Students’

"Members of the secret court considered themselves to be defenders of morality at the university, and they felt the very existence of people who were gay and even those who knew of homosexuality at the university, were some sort of force that would taint other students," Paley said. "I think they considered it some sort of contagious disease," he said.

The witch hunt began when Harvard sophomore Cyril Wilcox committed suicide by inhaling gas in his family's home. When the Wilcox family found personal letters revealing the young man's gay life at school. They implored the university to investigate.

"They pinpointed the ringleader as a student named Roberts, whose father was a congressman," Paley said. "He used to have parties in his room in Perkins Hall with other men from Boston who came in, people dressed in drag, women dressed in men's clothing," he said.

In all, 14 men were interrogated by the secret court. They were pushed to reveal the deepest and most graphic details of their lifestyle as they were tried for the crime of being homosexual.

Seven college students, a dental school student, a recent graduate and four men who were not connected to Harvard were told to leave the campus and Cambridge.

A member of the secret court wrote a letter to U.S. Rep. Ernest William Roberts after the congressmen's son and the other men were dismissed.

"The president has instructed me to advise your son to leave the university at once," the member wrote Roberts. "His offense has nothing to do with low scholarship. It is not gambling or drink or ordinary sexual intercourse … the matter is altogether the most distressing thing that has occurred since I've been in this office," he wrote.

Many of those investigated were ruined for life. One of the interrogated students killed himself after his session with the secret court. Those accused passed away long before Harvard's dark secret was discovered, but for a while it seemed the school might never let it come out.

University Balked at Sharing Information

When Paley asked school administrators for the letters, he said they were hesitant to release everything.

"I wrote a letter to the dean of the college asking for permission, and he said "There's no need-to-know basis" and that, you know, there are privacy interests of the students involved, and we don't want to release them to you at all," Paley said.

Stephanie Skier, a leader of a campus gay activist group at Harvard, said everyone should be aware of what happened at the university, even though more than 80 years have passed since the secret court convened.

"I think from any journalistic or historical perspective, it's definitely been brought out, from the, the perspective of clear activism or, or gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community, it's something that is part of our community that we want brought out, and, and remembered," she said.

It took six months of appeals and extensive research to learn the names of students which had been kept secret by the university in the interest of privacy, but the Crimson eventually revealed the secret court.

Harvard University issued an apology over the incident in late November.

"Whatever attitudes may have been prevalent then, persecuting individuals on the basis of sexual orientation is abhorrent and an affront to the values of our university," said Lawrence H. Summers, the president of Harvard University. "We are a better and more just community today because those attitudes have changed as much as they have," he said.

Skier says statements from university officials won't resurrect the dignity of the victims, or repair ruined lives.

"They should give degrees to the students who were expelled in this process of the court," Skier said.

ABCNEWS' Chris Cuomo reported this story for Good Morning America.
  • Holy fucking god.

    The worst part of this is not that this happened. We all know some horrible, disgusting, breathtaking things happened, and this is repellant, but it's not the worst thing ever.

    The worst part of this is the way Harvard behaved now upon learning about it, desperately trying to cover it up. That bothers me a lot.

    Yes, you're right. This is why it matters that we take actions that make people more comfortable being who they are. This is why marches matter. This is why rights matter. This is why campus youth groups matter. So this shit doesn't happen, and so people can't cover it up if it does.

    • Re: Holy fucking god.

      Actually, the worst part to me was having someone tell me it didn't matter because it happened 80 years ago-- and when I said that the point was that it was reprehensible that it happened and should be noted because it shouldn't be allowed to happen again, this person said oh well it was a bad news story. Then it was a badly-reported story, then I got to hear about a moment of sexual harassment in this person's high school life, which happened ten years ago. Then we went for the red herrings.
      Somebody died, because of this. Someone killed himself because, I imagine, he supposed that the whole thing would destroy his entire life.
      A human life was ended by this.
      I'm sorry if human beings driving other human beings to die doesn't matter to you, because it sure as hell matters to me, and I should honestly think that it would matter to anyone human.
      • Re: Holy fucking god.

        When you said "we'd have a fuckton more corpses than the one suicide mentioned in this story," I take it you haven't actually read the original article on which it's based, the one in The Crimson. Go read it. There were a fuckton more corpses, in the end.

        Of the students who got expelled/suspended, in fact, one of them was kicked out for simply being the roommate of one of the homosexual students. “Your son, though we believe him to be innocent of any homosexual act, is in the following ways too closely connected with those who have been guilty of these acts...We feel the boy to have been no worse than ignorant, over-curious, and careless…I hope that after the lesson sinks in he will ask for readmission.” Yaaaar. Tainted. Get out.

        Go read the actual article. Jesus fucking christ.

        • Re: Holy fucking god.

          In the interests of fighting link decay, I've copied the article referenced above.
          It is very large.
          It is very ugly.
  • short searing cynicism

    Given that this is the same university whose experiments likely contributed to the genesis of the Unabomer, and given Inge Bell's description of the Ivy League colleges as the vessel of the wealthiest Americans' dream of the perfect white-collar work force, that is, solely as a means to an end, I wish I could say I was surprised, but I know well enough how I expect those who gain the leadership of institutions of ideas are likely to weigh the importance of ideas and institutions and the human lives who create them.

    And people think I'm kidding when I say that the accreditation system should be abandoned.
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