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Term ‘Morons’ Sparks Harvard Flap

November 12, 2002

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) _ A cartoon in Harvard Business School’s student newspaper criticizing the school’s computer system triggered the resignation of a student editor and generated a free speech controversy.

The problems arose before corporate recruiting sessions, when computer mixups scrambled some of the students’ interview schedules.

The student newspaper, Harbus, reacted by publishing a cartoon of a career services Web site overloaded with error messages, including one referring to ``incompetent morons.″ In turn, the director of the MBA program reprimanded two student editors, and warned them to avoid ``disrespectful″ language.

Nick Will, the paper’s editor in chief, resigned and cited ``personal intimidation and threats″ by Harvard officials, according to The Boston Globe. The exchange has prompted debates about free speech.

``The message the school sent to Nick Will was pretty threatening,″ Jennifer Taylor, a second-year student and member of a board reviewing the case. ``This is denying the community a voice to express its frustrations.″

MBA chairman Carl Kester, however, said there was no intent to censor the editors. The cartoon violated the campus ``community standards″ code, he said, because it insulted the school’s career-services employees.

``If it weren’t for those two words, nothing would have been said or done to the students,″ Kester told the Globe. ``There was just a very palpable sense that this had damaged the feelings of people working very hard on behalf of students.″

Kim B. Clark, dean of the Business School, wrote in a memo sent Friday to students that while the school is ``committed to principles of free expression and inquiry ... each of us first and foremost is a member of the Harvard Business School community, and as such, we are expected to treat each other respectfully.″

Harbus editors argued the cartoon faulted the school’s computer system _ not individuals.

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