Freedom of speech questioned at Harvard

By on November 28, 2002

The Harvard Business School’s student newspaper, The Harbus, came under high scrutiny after printing what was perceived as questionable material in a comic about the university’s career services department.
The school holds corporate recruiting sessions where students are interviewed for various positions. The career services department sets up these interviews for the students, and posts information about them on its web site.
This year the department experienced computer mishaps, and many of the students’ interview schedules were mixed up. This caused some to miss appointments and a chance to be recruited.
In reaction to the computer issues, the student newspaper published a cartoon that showed the career services department’s web site as being overloaded and riddled with error messages. One message included the words “incompetent morons.”
Upon seeing the comic with those words in it, the director of the MBA program wrote to the two student editors expressing his thoughts on their actions. He warned them about the use of what he said was disrespectful terms, in letters that have been dubbed threatening by the editors and their friends.
The newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Nick Will, resigned shortly thereafter stating that he would not tolerate personal intimidation and threats, according to an article in The Boston Globe.
Now, questions are being raised regarding the issue of free speech.
Students at Harvard defended the comic, saying that they were merely expressing their frustration at a system which had failed them.
University officials say the comic violated a community standards code and was insulting to the career services staff.
The officials also say that they were not attempting to censor the paper, but were only trying to protect the standing of their colleagues.
The dean of the business school, Kim B. Clark, issued a memo on Nov. 8 stating that even though the school is “committed to principles of free expression and inquiry… each of us first and foremost is a member of the Harvard Business School community, and as such, we are expected to treat each other respectfully.”
Debate continues on the campus regarding protection of First Amendment rights.


About Nancy Hall - Staff Writer