Harvard apologizes for tip sheet advising students how to talk about refugees and 'black murders in the street'

Harvard University has issued an apology for disseminating talking points on social justice to students going home for winter break, The Guardian reported.

The Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, along with the Freshman Dean’s Office, issued “holiday placemats for social justice” that explained to students how they should respond to family members when asked certain questions.

The placemat had four sections — Yale/Student Activism, House Master Title, Black Murders in the Street, and Islamaphobia (sic)/Refugees — each with a potential question and then a suggested response.

For example, if family members said, “We shouldn’t let anyone in the US from Syria. We can’t guarantee that terrorists won’t infiltrate the ranks of refuges,” students were prompted to have this response: “The US has been accepting refugees from the war-torn areas around the world for decades. Remember the wars in Central America?”

Or if family members attempted to discuss the recent spate of African-American deaths at the hands of police officers with a comment like, “Why didn’t they just listen to the officer?”, students were encouraged to say, “Do you think the response would be the same if it was a white person pulled over?”

The placemat also had a section labelled “Tips for Talking to Families” that included “listen mindfully before formulating a thoughtful response” and “breathe.”

The Harvard Undergraduate Council, which consists of Harvard College students, condemned the university’s attempt to tell students what they should say rather than letting them think for themselves.

“We reject the premise that there is a ‘right’ way to answer the questions posed,” the group wrote in a statement. “We do not think the offices of the university should be in the business of disseminating ‘approved’ positions on complex and divisive political issues.”

Harvard’s dean of student life and dean of freshman issued a joint response apologizing for the placemats, and acknowledging they were one-sided responses to complex issues.

“We write to acknowledge that the placemat distributed in some of your dining halls this week failed to account for the many viewpoints that exist on our campus on some of the most complex issues we confront as a community and society today,” they wrote.

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