Harvard reverses course on ‘placemats for social justice’
By Evan Lips | December 18, 2015, 16:22 EDT
CAMBRIDGE — Harvard College administrators earlier this week apologized for placing in college dining halls “holiday placemats for social justice,” which featured a list of talking points for dealing with politically incorrect family members over the holiday break.
The placemats included a four-topic primer on how students can explain Harvard’s decision to dump the “house master” title, defend policies welcoming Syrian refugees, argue in favor of establishing “safe spaces” and convince skeptics that blacks are treated unfairly by police.
Within days, the school yanked the placemats out of dining halls while Dean of Student Life Stephen Lassonde and Dean of Freshmen Thomas Dingman emailed a formal apology to the student body, which was obtained by the conservative college news website Campus Reform.
“We write to acknowledge that the placemat distributed in some of your dining halls this week failed to account for the many viewpoints that exist on our campus on some of the most complex issues we confront as a community and society today,” the email stated. “Our goal was to provide a framework for you to engage in conversations with peers and family members as you return home for the winter break.”
The placemats prompted the Harvard Republican Club to release its own tongue-in-cheek version:
— Harvard GOP (@harvardgop) December 17, 2015
The holiday social justice placemats, distributed by the school’s Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, were inspired by a national activist group known as Showing Up For Racial Justice, according to fine print included at the bottom of the mats. The SURJ posted its version of placemats to its website on Nov. 25. The placemats include talking points identical or almost exactly similar to the messages posted in Harvard’s version. The Harvard Republican Club’s placemats needle the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (“If you don’t share these opinions, you do not fit in with the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion”) and poke fun at the nature of the talking points (“these straw-men arguments represent people who disagree with you”). Nicholas Christakis, a Harvard professor who openly acknowledges he favors more liberal political views, took to Twitter to applaud the Harvard Republican Club’s rebuttal: