As alumni of HBS and the Harbus editorial staff, we read the news about “cartoon-gate” with disappointment but not surprise. During our tenure from 1998-2000, the administration attempted to reign in the Harbus and its staff on several occasions when the paper crossed an imaginary line of critique, using very similar tactics. We believed then, and continue to believe today, that student newspapers should be unbridled and freedom of expression should not be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness or vaguely worded and subjectively interpretable “community standards.”
Humor-focused articles and cartoons often flirt with crossing the line between “pointed” and “offensive.” We sympathize with Career Services if they felt that line was crossed – they do a solid job and deserve respect and gratitude, especially in such a difficult labor market.
However, the administration should have encouraged Career Services to respond to the cartoon with a letter to the editor, or the dean should have written a letter himself. Such letters to the editor are a time honored tradition in the United States and show an appropriate respect for the institution of free press. Instead, the administration chose to call the Harbus Editor in to a closed-door session in which veiled threats led to his subsequent resignation, an oppressive tactic designed to intimidate the individual rather than engage the student body in discussion.
HBS is a wonderful institution. Through countless case discussions and a strong sense of community, HBS strives to impart the skills students need to manage complex situations with leadership and integrity.
Perhaps the administration, well-intentioned as they are, should sit in on a few more of those case discussions and realize that HBS students deserve to be treated as their equals, not their “products.” Most of all, maybe they should just lighten up.
With hope, the Hamilton Hooligans,
Jason Brown, Columnist 1998-2000
Jeff Kutash, Columnist 1998-2000
Erik Larson, Editor-in-Chief, 1999-2000
Price Roe, Humor Editor, 1999-2000