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Harvard’s student Voice apologizes for remarks

Magazine posting stereotyped Asians

A magazine published by students at Harvard College has issued an apology for controversial remarks about students of Asian descent that ­appeared on the publication’s website over the weekend.

The material first appeared on the blog of the Harvard Voice in a posting entitled, “5 People You’ll See at Pre-Interview Receptions,” which poked fun at the “well-suited career men and women” seeking to land jobs at prestigious firms.

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The author at one point described “the Asian contingent at every pre-interview reception.”

“They dress in the same way (satin blouse with high waisted pencil skirt for girls, suits with skinny ties for boys), talk in the same sort-of gushy, sort-of whiny manner, and have the same concentrations and sky-high GPAs,” the author wrote. “They’re practically indistinguishable from one another, but it’s OK.”

The magazine later deleted the passage from the anonymous posting and added an apology for the “inappropriate content,” but the excerpt was reposted in a story about the incident on the website of The Harvard ­Crimson, the student news­paper.

“We deeply apologize if this article has offended some of our readers,” the Voice said in its posted apology.

The Voice’s editors in chief, identified on its website as ­seniors Michelle Nguyen and April Sperry, could not be reached for comment Monday night.

Sperry said in a statement posted late Monday to the Voice blog that a contributor, who wanted to remain anonymous, wrote the original posting and sent it to a staff member. She said the staff member published the material, which was not endorsed by the magazine “as a whole.”

“Do I know who wrote the article? No, I don’t,” Sperry wrote. “But it doesn’t really matter who wrote it. What matters is that the article reflected an extremely controversial and offensive opinion that hurt and insulted people.”

She described the posting as a misguided attempt at humor.

“The tone of the article is not what I would call malicious,” she wrote. “It sounds like a ‘joke’ that turned out to be more hurtful than it was funny.”

Harvard junior Rachael Foo, copresident of the Harvard Radcliffe Asian American Association, criticized the original blog posting in a statement to Globe. “There are a range of problems with this article,” Foo wrote. “Firstly, ‘the Asian’ was the only race singled out — the use of that term to lump us ­together just smacks of insensitivity to all the variations in our community.’’

Foo added that the posting had prompted a discussion on campus. “One point that was brought up in the discussion following the article was that it was ‘just wording,’ or ‘just a joke,’ ’’ she wrote. “Being OK with jokes that play on stereotypes and beliefs, the same ­beliefs that will be communicated to the wider community, is the real danger.”

A spokesman for Harvard, Jeff Neal, said the magazine is an independent student organization and is not in good standing with the college because it failed to apply for recognition this year. “As a result, they do not have access to privileges that come with recognition, includ­ing funding,” Neal said. “That said, the Office of Student Life regularly meets with student organizations, recognized and unrecognized, when issues arise that contradict values, such as tolerance and diversity, that are treasured by the broader Harvard community. It is ­notable that, in this instance, the Voice ­already has issued an apology’’ and removed the content from its website.

The Voice has made news before. The Globe reported in 2009 that the actress Emma Watson was “stalked by members of Harvard Voice magazine” when she visited campus that year.

Alisha Ramos, then the Voice’s top editor, rebutted an account in the New York Post of “an orchestrated campaign of Ivy League harassment” of ­Watson by the magazine.

“The Voice denies any efforts to ‘orchestrate’ a mass mob of gawkers”, Ramos wrote on the magazine’s website. In fact, the bloggers were never certain whether or not Watson was ­actually present [at a Harvard-Brown football game] and never once caught a glimpse of her, only ­rumors.”

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com.

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