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Monday, November 21, 2005

is the Harvard Crimson finally ready to take diversity seriously?

In my goings on post below, I noted that one reader had pointed out that the new leadership of the Crimson is problematically white and male. A small discussion has ensued today, including one reader’s point that the next layer of new leadership, the News Executives, does not suffer from the same problem and another reader's argument that the problem is cyclical. Even so, it is certainly a problem at the top, especially a problem on the Editorial Board (which will be led by eight men), and it's not a problem that is only experienced at the Crimson but also throughout Harvard’s “establishment” organizations. This, I would note, is an issue that we've been discussing here at Cambridge Common ever since our early adolescence last spring.

In any event, while the discussion of why this is true (and in what ways) is certainly one that should be had, I wanted to note what may be a major positive step: the Crimson leadership seems to understand that it's a problem and may be ready to make a serious commitment to solving it. One reader culled these quotes from the shoot papers (the Crimson's form of job applications) of a few of the paper's leaders (bolds are mine):
Marra [the incoming President]: "I am committed to fostering diversity on staff. When we lack diversity on all fronts, including racial and socioeconomic, our coverage suffers from a lack of perspective, and our editors lack information about campus events and issues. Productive relationships with ethnic groups are the first step towards recruiting minorities."(more in expanded post)
Seward [the incoming Managing Editor]: "We continue to hurt from a lack of ethnic diversity at The Crimson. Our coverage of minority groups is suffering—and often nonexistent—as a result. And though we have made some important strides in reaching out to diverse student groups, we need a concerted recruitment effort that begins at pre-frosh weekend, finds its roots in the comp, and does not let up until we have succeeded, however many years it may take. The Crimson’s homogeneity is perhaps our greatest vulnerability, and combating it will require an effort on par with projects like the capital campaign, website redesign, and switch to color publication. The diversity of our staff and leadership is no less important."

Hemel [one of the incoming Associate Managing Editors]: "The news board can’t expand significantly if it culls most of its staff from a narrow demographic subset. The AME(s) and/or comp director(s) should ask the leaders of campus religious and ethnic organizations to give us time at their introductory meetings so that we can make presentations about the comp process. It’s a win-win situation: those organizations will benefit by strengthening their connections to the news board, and we’ll benefit with a larger staff that more accurately reflects the make-up of the undergraduate population. Moreover, by sending the AME(s) and/or comp director(s) as news board ambassadors to religious and ethnic organizations, we’ll improve The Crimson’s relations with groups that may feel marginalized by our coverage. We’ll attach a human face to our product. And we’ll come back to 14 Plympton with a bucket-load of story ideas."

Peguero: "We should actively seek to recruit at racial minority/ethnic groups. We must not only regularly meet with and listen to diverse communities: we must become one. These groups gather for dinner once a week and open the floor to guests. Those of us part of these ethnic communities should pub the Crimson Comp early in the year at these meetings and emphasize the need for greater minority representation on the Crimson."
Whether or not all of this truly represents a growing political consensus to attack this problem, I don't know. I simply don't know the history of the situation well enough to know if this is simply a pledge taken by all shooting leadership or a new realization at the paper. But, assuming we take them at their word, I'm excited that there seems to be such a realization at the paper that something needs to be done. Maybe the Harvard Crimson is finally ready to take diversity seriously. I guess we'll have to wait and see. If these good thoughts turn into good actions, the Crimson will *gasp* deserve a lot of praise.


At 10:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Crimson is a sunken ship without Morgan R. Grice.

She's singlehandedly diverse. And in her words, she's "smart, brilliant, we like to think."

Who's with me on this one?

At 2:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These attacks on the new leadership are disgusting. The shoot process is designed to provide the deliberators with a lot of information about the candidates. To second guess any decisions (such as the fact that the editorial execs, who I might add were picked by a group of 3 girls and 2 guys, are all male) makes no sense, because unlike the deliberators, you do not know the candidates, have not seen their writing, and have not interveiwed them multiple times. It is a slap in the face to people who have worked hard to get their positions.
Ultimately, The Crimson is an open comp - almost 10% of the student body graduates as a Crimson Editor. If The Crimson lacks minorities, it's because minority students are not comping. I don't get why the new leadership saying it is committed to trying to recruit minorities (which, by the way, it has said for at least the past few years) is a bad thing.

At 12:33 PM, Blogger andrew golis said...

anonymous 2, these are not attacks on the new leadership. Everything I have been hearing from people at the Crimson has been extremely positive about all of them. The point of this post is simply to point out that they, along with many others, know that their lack of diversity is a problem and that they should try to fix it in the future so that, as each of them says, their coverage improves.

If you read the post again, I am happy that they are trying to recruit minorities, I'm not saying it's a bad thing. The Crimson needs to ask itself why minority students aren't comping and trying to counteract that with explicit recruitment efforts.

At 2:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of "taking diversity seriously," can anyone tell me the relevance of the distinction made by this Crimson editorial?

Is the distinction between the HRCF's mandating officers who 'subscribe without reserve' to Christianity in its Constitution and the effective ethnic and ideological biases of groups such as the Black Men's Forum and the South Asian Assoication or even the Dems and the Republicans an important one? The Black Men's Forum limits its identity by race and gender in its title. Is that really effectively different from limiting it in the constitution? And if not, then why ban UC funding from one and not the other?

This seems like the silly nitpicking that the Crimson often substitutes for a serious commitment to diversity issues, and which leads to silly editorials about funding "discriminatory groups" while publishing articles such as this one last year headlined with a lyric from an Eminem song making fun of Latin pop singers in an intentionally offensive way.

At 5:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before you make a hasty judgment on the issue; consider the implications of your post for groups like the Senecca, Fraternities, Sororities, and male/female Final Clubs. Those groups explicitly express in their constitutions that only a certain gender can partake in their activities. The UC would have to fund those groups if wanted to be in any way consistent with its decision to fund HRCF. In fact, it was particularly the by-law they suspended that they cited as the reason for not funding a Senecca event last spring promoting a Women's right cause, which would have been open to the whole campus.

At 10:31 AM, Blogger andrew golis said...

anon 3,

I completely agree with the Crimson staff ed, and I think it's important to note that you analogy to BMF or SAA is not right. Those groups limit themselves by gender/race in the title just as much as HRCF (Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship). BUT, neither has in their constitution that no one may lead the organization who cannot trace their lineage back to South Asia or Africa. Both groups, quite logically, feel that the chances of electing leaders that are not black or south asia are very small, if not none existent, and don't make the discriminatory claim.

I would also note that in the last two years, an Asian man and a white man have been members of BMF...

At 4:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree.

Morgan R. Grice

At 12:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

HRCF and AACF don't have elections...this is one way of standardizing the selection procedure. PLUS, their leaders are responsible for leading prayer circles, etc...answers?

At 11:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your lack of context on the issue of diversity really hurts your point. The incoming leadership all discussed diversity because in the past year we have made it one our primary goals to improve our coverage and staff in this regard, and they have embraced that. Perhaps if there were members of the ethnic groups we've reached out to on your own staff, you would have realized that the relationship between The Crimson and ethnic groups on campus have improved drastically with the 132nd guard. While the staff may not be an exact representation of the Harvard community, it is certainly significantly more representative, as is our coverage. You had the resources to get the shoot papers, a few simple imquiries could have provided you with this information as well.

-Monica M. Clark

At 3:24 AM, Blogger andrew golis said...

I didn't claim to know everything about the context. Also, I would bet that writers at Cambridge Common are members of those ethnic groups, but that's not really the point. All I said was that there's a problem, and it's good that we have public proof that the leaders care.

Any critique of the coverage in this post is THEIRS, not mine, so don't blame me.


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