Harvard officials were forced to apologize Wednesday after a university office distributed placemats that promoted political opinions about race and justice.
The placemats, which recently turned up in an undergraduate dining hall, appeared to brand Americans worried about the U.S. accepting tens of thousands of refugees from Syria Islamophobic. They also encouraged political opinions about allegations of racism at Yale University, the deaths of African Americans at the hands of police officers, and the school’s decision to change the title of "House Master" because some argue that it relates to slavery.
Two Harvard deans penned an apology note to community members after students expressed outrage at the placemats and claimed they promoted political stances.
"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," Stephen Lassoed, dean of student life, and Thomas Dingman, dean of freshmen, wrote in the message Wednesday.
"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, however, it was not effectively presented and it ultimately caused confusion in our community."
The deans offered their "sincere apologies" for the placemats, which were distributed by Harvard’s Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
"Academic freedom is central to all that Harvard College stands for. To suggest that there is only one point of view on each of these issues runs counter to our educational goals. We appreciate the feedback that we have received about this initiative. Moving forward we will, with your continued input, support the growth and the development of independent minds," the deans further wrote.
Idrees Kahloon, a Harvard senior who criticized the "holiday placemats for social justice" in an op-ed published in the Harvard Crimson, told the Free Beacon Wednesday that the placemats were met with criticism across campus.
The Harvard Republican Club took issue with the placemats, creating its own parody placemat and distributing copies at a school dining hall Wednesday.
The placemats were the result of a collaboration between the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and the Freshman Dean’s Office.
Kahloon celebrated the deans’ apology Thursday.
"It’s encouraging to see Harvard recognize its mistake and promptly address it after student criticism. For Harvard to meet its mission of growing and developing independent minds, it must give students the space and opportunity to think for themselves," Kahloon said.