Thursday, September 29, 2005

Harvard's 'Court' against homosexuality

In 2002, a researcher for The Harvard Crimson came across a restricted archive labeled “Secret Court Files, 1920.” The mystery he uncovered involved a tragic scandal in which Harvard University secretly put a dozen students on trial for homosexuality and then systematically and persistently tried to ruin their lives.

In May of 1920, Cyril Wilcox, a freshman suspended from Harvard, was found sprawled dead on his bed, his room filled with gas — a suicide. The note he left behind revealed his secret life as part of a circle of homosexual students. The resulting witch hunt and the lives it cost remains one of the most shameful episodes in the history of America’s premiere university. Supported by legendary Harvard President Lawrence Lowell, Harvard conducted its investigation in secrecy. Several students committed suicide; others had their lives destroyed by an ongoing effort on the part of Harvard to destroy their reputations.

The above is from the blurb of a book about the matter; I happened upon this subject for the first time ever just now, on this Metafilter thread, whose main link is a lengthy, thorough and devastating article in the Harvard Crimson, backed up with another opinion piece and a Washington Post column. If you find the article link expires in future, contact me for a copy via the comments.

If I lived even close to Harvard, I’d be trying to find out all I could about the members of ‘the Court’ and why, in 1920, they felt privately compelled and lawfully able to not simply investigate and expel gay students in secret, but to then hound them throughout their future lives. It’s not as creepy, exactly, as Yale’s posture photos and the rather Nazi ideals behind them, but it is as glaring and grotesque a story of ceaseless, ruthless, deliberate ruination of lives as any I’ve seen.

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