So much for the assumption that higher education correlates with less prejudice: Harvard’s secret court, an administrative body “authorized by Harvard administrators to investigate students alleged to be gay” in the 1920’s (http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/-Harvard-rally-for-amends-in-1920-anti-gay-secret-court/36359.html). The court’s investigations led to the expulsion of 7 students who “were gay or perceived to be gay.” The original count was 9, but
[t]wo of the students were allowed back… but the rest were not—one killed himself over the ordeal—Eugene R. Cummings. He was only 23-years-old and three weeks away from graduation. We are also disturbed to hear that Harvard pursued and persecuted these young men for over 30 years (http://secretcourt.org/).
Harvard students, faculty and staff, armed with almost 3,000 signatures and celebrity power including Lady Gaga and Oprah Winfrey, will be rallying on campus today to demand that the university disband the secret court (which still exists! as if public denunciation by former Harvard President Larry Summers should suffice). Protestors are also urging the university to grant posthumous degrees to the 7 students.
As a Harvard alum (of the Graduate School of Education), I’m dismayed as much by the university’s continuing inaction regarding the secret court as I am by its actions in the 20’s. The fact that I read about this rally through the San Francisco Chronicle and not through university or alumni news is maybe not surprising, but it’s still disappointing. I have to wonder: what’s with the hush hush over the not-so-secret-anymore court?
To sign the e-petition and support today’s rally, go to: http://www.change.org/petitions/harvard-university-please-abolish-the-anti-gay-secret-court-of-1920-and-grant-posthumous-honorary-degrees-to-the-seven-student-victims
For more information about the secret courts, you can check out William Wright’s Harvard’s Secret Court: The Savage 1920 Purge of Campus Homosexuals (http://www.alibris.com/search/books/qwork/8943810/used/Harvard%27s%20Secret%20Court%3A%20The%20Savage%201920%20Purge%20of%20Campus%20Homosexuals)