Father Harrington is facing heavy criticism on campus forcomments he made in during an interview with ABC Channel 7 lastweekend regarding the basketball sex scandal. Students circulatedflyers with excerpts from the interview and the question “What doesthis mean?” The word “Racist” was painted on a large rock outsideof Montgoris Dining Hall over the weekend. It also appeared on thehall itself until it was cleaned off by staff.
The ABC website quoted Harrington saying, “Culture is reallywhat it’s about. For example, we have a men’s soccer team here atSaint John’s – and I have no doubt – I’m gonna go out on a limbhere – I don’t think it could happen there.”
In another interview with the New York Times and the Daily News,Harrington said, “Cultures develop on a team – and I’m not talkingabout ethnic culture or religious culture. It’s the way peopleinteract and what they think is acceptable or not acceptable. Ihave grown increasingly concerned about the culture of the men’sbasketball program as I was beginning to experience it over therecent months.”
Harrington has since apologized for his comments in a letter tothe student body, printed on page six of this issue and alsodistributed through the St. John’s Central e-mail system.
University officials say that the ABC quote does not give theproper context for Harrington’s remarks, and that he did not intendto raise racial issues.
“It’s clear from those other articles that Fr. Harrington wastrying to be very clear that he wasn’t talking about race, hewasn’t talking about ethnicity, he wasn’t talking about religion.He was talking about accountability, mindset, and the behavior thatleads to those kind of improper actions,” Fischer said at Haraya’sforum on the subject yesterday.
Some students, however, disagree. “When you take race andreligion out of culture, what is culture?” asked one student at theforum.
“You can’t take away different aspects of a culture, like ethnicculture or religious culture, because all that is within culture,”said another. “When he said culture, that’s the only way you cansee it when you read that [the ABC] quote. That’s what you see;that’s what we see. Unless he can sit there and say, ‘Oh I wasn’tthinking,’ or ‘I rushed my statement,’ anything else can’t bringabout change. You can’t clear that up.”
Harrington’s comments also dominated Monday’s three-hour StudentGovernment, Inc. meeting.
“This is an issue of diversity that is black and white,” RasaanColefield, president of Residence Hall Association said themeeting, pointing out that Harrington compared the predominatelyblack basketball team to the predominately white soccer team.Fischer fielded questions from government members and studentobservers on Harrington’s behalf. Harrington was roundly criticizedby the students for his absence. SGI later voted to draft a letterto Harrington, requesting that he hold a town-hall type meetingwithin the next two weeks explaining his comments.
“In order for us to understand what Fr. Harrington said, we needto hear from him first, in his own words, what he intended fromthose comments,” SGI president Fabrice Armand said after the Mondaymeeting. “As a student leader, I need to separate myself from myemotions and look at the content and the meaning of the words thatwere said. Upon speaking to Fr. Harrington, I will know what hemeant – if it is culture meaning mentality, or something else.”
Harrington is scheduled to address the issue at theOrganizational Congress today at 3:30 in the University Commons.The meeting will not be open to the general student body.