Group Calls For Posthumous Degrees For Harvard Students Expelled For Being Gay In 1920s

Some students and faculty at Harvard University are using an upcoming appearance by Lady Gaga to draw attention to a shameful part of the Ivy League school’s history.

In wasn’t until 2002 that the existence of a secret cabal that investigated charges of homosexuality back in the first part of the 20th century came to light. Now a group is asking that seven students expelled in 1920 under suspicion of being gay be awarded posthumous degrees.

The group will hold a rally tomorrow, when Lady Gaga comes to campus to launch her Born This Way anti-bullying foundation. Joining Mother Monster will Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, reports the AP. 

“We felt like this was an opportunity to ask for their support and would hope they would join us in asking Harvard to do the right thing here and help seek justice for these students,” said professor Kaia Stern, who plans on attending the rally.

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  • Dave

    Are the GLBT people who were attending Harvard then and expelled for being GLBT even alive anymore?

  • EdWoody

    @Dave: Hence the use of the word “posthumous.”

  • Drew

    So what’s the point then if they’re all no longer alive? Too little too late.

  • Ryan

    @Drew : So would you say the same about the British government issueing an apology for how they treated Alan Turing? Yes, all these people are dead, but it should be acknowledge that how they were treated was wrong, and some kind of reparation – even if it can only be a symbolic gesture – should be had.

  • B

    No. 3 · Drew asked, “So what’s the point then if they’re all no longer alive?” It’s simply a sort of apology, directed at gays in general.

  • Ben

    It’s never too late for an apology….whether that happens or not is another story…

  • Fabular Films

    Starring Harvard undergraduates, PERKINS 28: Testimony from the Secret Court Files of 1920 was produced at Harvard University in 2008 to bring awareness about the charges made against the students, whose disclosures led to academic withdrawals and even suicide. As an educational document of discrimination in the early 20th Century and based on actual court documents, the film reenacts the secret trial and the disciplinary actions taken by the administration against these students.

  • Drew

    Ryan-Yes I would. It’s pointless since Alan Turing is no longer alive.

  • William

    This is such a nice idea. I hope they do it.

  • Steve

    @Drew: Alan Turing should be given a posthumous Nobel Prize, for inventing the very concept of a “computer”.

  • B

    No. 11 · Steve wrote, “@Drew: Alan Turing should be given a posthumous Nobel Prize, for inventing the very concept of a “computer”.”

    He didn’t – see for an incomplete list, missing earlier work by Charles Babbage and some of the work of others as well.

    Turing made important contributions, of course, and is one of the founders of computer science, but the work he did was more mathematical in nature: the so-called Turing machine was a mathematical model of a real device.

    If you want to see a physical realization of a Turing machine, you can find one at (it won’t look like any computer you’ve ever seen, and the implementation probably used at least one microprocessor as a controller).

    While it is very primitive, Turing proved that a Turing machine could compute anything that a real computer could compute, so it is a useful model for computation.

    There is a prestigious award named after Turing, the Turing Award, sometimes described as the “Nobel Prize of computer science”. BTW, there is no Nobel Prize for mathematics, and computer science is really closer to mathematics than anything else.

  • Mr. Robertson

    @B: I heart u :-p

  • jason

    How shameful of Harvard! Their rationale that homosexuality was illegal back then doesn’t stand scrutiny. Homosexual behavior between men was illegal, not the homosexual orientation. To my knowledge, men who were suspected of having a homosexual orientation were dismissed from the school simply on the basis of their orientation or suspicion thereof.

    Harvard is quite disgraceful, you have to admit.

  • Tika Masala

    Its a fantastic idea. Those people should be honored.

  • Chris

    @jason: No, no you don’t have to admit anything. You have to take in to consideration the time they were in. Imagine a world 5 years from now that has outlawed the so called ‘text chat’ that people are using. To clarify, I’m referring to using single characters instead of whole words, or removing many of the letters in a word. Now, in such a world practically any website with a user comments section would fall under scrutiny, simply because it is acceptable now. There was no way that the people of 1920 could have foreseen a drastic change to social norms, and you shouldn’t berate them for that.

    On an slightly less specific note, asking for an apology is about the most useless thing you can do, anyone can apologized when asked to, think of a child who has taken a cookie and asked to apologize for it, sure they’ll do it but they aren’t really regretting the action. If Harvard wanted the negative attention it would bring to itself by drugging up this issue, they would have apologized.

  • Justin

    So, the people who think Harvard shouldn’t apologize for the mistakes that probably ruined the lives of others probably also think that African Americans shouldn’t get reparations either… If nobody ever apologizes for ruining others lives it becomes acceptable, and society crumbles. It doesn’t matter if what they did would’ve been more acceptable back then, it isn’t now.

  • Mr. Robertson

    @Justin: What the hell do reparations have to do with this?

  • Chris

    @Justin: You’re right, it isn’t acceptable now, that’s why they aren’t doing it now.

Comments are closed.