An open letter to Dean Thomas Dingman, Dean of Harvard College Freshmen:
Dear Dean Dingman,
As you well know, the Harvard Extension School Cultural Studies Club plans on hosting a “historical re-enactment” of a Satanic Black Mass. Though the university has issued multiple statements stating that the event will continue as planned, citing the club’s freedom of speech and assembly, we, as freshman in the Harvard Christian Community would like to express our individual concerns about the topic, which we feel have not been discussed, nor taken into consideration.
To begin, the Black Mass, as well known, is an open invitation calling on Satan. We understand that the club continues to mark this event as a re-enactment, and not an actual religious rite, but this is a distinction without a difference. The “mass” would actually be said, and therefore the devil will be invoked. As Christians, we feel that this calling of the devil invites him to our campus and compromises our ability to go about our daily lives in Cambridge Queen’s Head Pub, Memorial Hall, Sanders Theater, and Annenberg Dining Hall.
When we first moved into the yard, our proctors, advisors, and other faculty all promised to uphold and guarantee our safety, and we have found that this promise has been upheld, until now. You see, after Monday evening, we feel that Cambridge Queen’s Head, Memorial Hall, Sanders Theater, and Annenberg will no longer be safe, inviting, or comfortable places for us. With less than a week of school left, and in the midst of finals period, this added stress and fear has not helped our mental health, nor has it promoted a positive or accepting environment.
It is not just the students that we are worried about. Having eaten most of our meals in Annenberg, we have become friends with the staff and are concerned for the effects this event will have on their work environment. No employee of Harvard, or anywhere else, should feel uncomfortable where he or she earns a living, and we’re certain you believe that as well Among the staff, there is a general feeling of great unease about this enough. One staff member who wished to stay anonymous said that although he was only slightly comfortable, he knew many more members of the staff who felt very abused and victimized. This morning, we went to the staff and talked to Maria, who had this to say about the event: “I am very uncomfortable… I believe the people coming here are not coming here to do anything good, and that’s what scares me…I would rather die for my faith than allow events like this to take place…I feel unsafe.”
It is one thing for us students who are able to go out to eat or to other dining halls if the restrictions would be lifted. However, it is another thing for those staff members who are compelled to work in Memorial Hall serving, cleaning, and cooking during and after this hateful event.
Some of us feel the area is already uninviting in anticipation of the event, while others have vowed never again to step foot in any of the affiliated buildings after the ritual. This is not an act of stubbornness, but rather rational concern driving us away. We would like an explanation as to why this event must occur on the college’s campus, especially at a major place of congregation for the undergraduate community, instead of a location off campus or at a location generally intended for Extension School Students.
Our additional concern regards the character of Lucien Greaves–leader of the Satanic Temple invited to perform the re-enactment . Originally named Doug Misicko, Mr. Greaves has a long history of close involvement with the “false-memory syndrome” foundation, a group that often downplays the ramifications of sexual-abuse and actively denies victims true support. Seeing that Harvard has recently been accused of not providing adequate support to sexual-abuse victims in just the past few months, and given the student body’s reaction to such allegations–including the launch of “Our Harvard Can Do Better”– we think that this event is in direct opposition to any progress that has been made thus far. If such an individual, or his associated organizations, is welcome on campus, not only does it create a hostile environment for us as Christians, but also for those of us who refuse to stand for sexual abuse on campus or anywhere else.
This is not just a Christian issue, but rather an issue that affects the student body and the rest of the Harvard community as a whole. We know the university has already been made aware of our religious concerns and is reluctant to use those arguments as the sole justification of cancelling the event. We understand that the interest of the university is to provide opportunities of self-expression, but, we believe the university also has an obligation to protect the safety and mental well-being of its students. This event has already made us feel unsafe on campus and has the potential to threaten many others. It makes us feel like less valued members of the Harvard community and erodes our trust in the institution and its commitment to our personal safety. Additionally, we feel that Harvard is not upholding its legal and ethical obligation as described by Dean Michael D. Smith in his most recent university-wide email regarding sexual misconduct.
Please take these concerns to heart and bring them to the attention of Dean Shinagel and President Faust.
Thank you for taking the time to read our letter; we truly appreciate anything you can do to help us and the rest of the Harvard community,