The Harvard Lampoon today is a sinner in the hand of an angry Harvard Crimson Editorial Board.
Ten students recently protested one of the Harvard Lampoonâ€™s comp meetings, condemning the undergraduate humor magazine for its insensitive content, and what they claim is a hostile and exclusive institutional culture.
As a Board, we applaud the protesters for standing up to the Lampoon. We condemn the magazineâ€™s publication of offensive and culturally insensitive content and sympathize with the protestersâ€™ claims that the organization has a hostile internal culture. We hope the Lampoon views the protests as impetus to work harder to build a better culture and better institutional pathways to screen their content before publication.
Last May, the Lampoon published an inappropriate, sexualized image of Holocaust victim Anne Frank, which Director of Harvard Hillel Rabbi Jonah C. Steinberg compared to the â€œobscenity of the Nazis.â€ This abhorrent incident was a striking dispay of hypersexualization and anti-Semitism, but must be understood as only one of many instances in which the Lampoonâ€™s actions have peddled in such morally reprehensible sentiments as humor. The magazine has â€” in the past â€” made sexist jokes, from comparing women to dogs to insensitive jokes about University President Lawrence S. Bacowâ€™s wife. And its insensitive content extends beyond the Anne Frank image as well, including an inappropriate joke about ISIS and minorities in final clubs. As if this smorgasbord of poor taste were not harmful enough, the Lampoon has also put out content trivializing a number of delicate issues such as suicide and fat-shaming.
The editors of the Lampoon said in a statement that their publishing process â€œlacks sufficient editorial oversight.â€ We believe this lack of oversight can lead to an inability to discern what kinds of humor are in poor taste.
We sympathize with the protesters and believe the Lampoon must take steps to address their concerns. And although the Lampoon has tried to take steps toward increasing diversity and accessibility â€” through steps such as newly instated positions to their Accessibility Council and Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response training for new members â€” we believe these efforts are insufficient. The Lampoon should, in addition to OSAPR training for its members, require implicit bias training and should be more explicit about the ways their comp and internal culture have improved to avoid this in the future.
In seeking change at the Lampoon, we believe the student body has a huge amount of power. We call on students who are considering comping the Lampoon to consider the culture that has enabled the systemic production and amplification of offensive and culturally insensitive content. In so doing, we hope they either choose not to comp the Lampoon, or, in comping it, to demand change.
The spirit of Cotton Mather rides again!