Members of the Harvard community have high hopes that Lady Gaga will poke her face into university affairs and help bring justice to students that were persecuted for being gay in the 1920s.
As the university partners with Gaga to launch the “Born This Way Foundation” today, activists will hold a rally outside of the event, asking administrators to award posthumous degrees to nine students expelled by a “Secret Court” launched by the school’s president almost a century ago.
The group is also asking the school to formally abolish the tribunal.
“It’s time to ensure these students receive justice,” said Kaia Stern, a visiting faculty member at Harvard. “If we can bring this to the light of day, perhaps … they will do right going forward.”
Stern started a petition alongside Their Day in the Yard, an on-campus group formed to help the deceased students achieve recognition. The group has garnered the support of nearly 3,000 people.
Stern and supporters will honor those persecuted with a moment of silence outside of Harvard’s Sanders Theater, where Gaga is hosting her event.
“Given their mission, we are hoping this is something they will support,” said the founder of Their Day in the Yard, who asked to remain anonymous.
Lady Gaga will launch the “Born This Way Foundation” on Harvard’s campus alongside her mother, entertainment mogul Oprah Winfrey and Harvard professors.
The foundation aims at fighting bullying while promoting self-confidence, mentoring and career development through research, education and advocacy.
Kin are keen to Gaga movement
According to Their Day in the Yard, the grandchildren of “Secret Court” member Dean Kenneth Murdock would like to see justice for the expelled students.
“I wish to express my support to the families and individuals fighting to get restitution,” said David Max Steinberg, Murdock’s grandson, on the group’s website.
Businesses get in on the Gaga visit
Several restaurants around Harvard Square will be donating portions of their proceeds to Lady Gaga’s new foundation.
At FiRE+iCE, for example, 20 percent of all dessert sales will go to “Born This Way Foundation,” and if you mention the Lady Gaga special at Crazy Dough’s, the pizzeria will throw in 10 percent of its own dough.
Secret time line
While nearly a century old, the actions of the court came to light only a decade ago.
The “Secret Court” convened for the first time in 1920 to investigate charges of homosexuality on campus.
One student committed suicide amidst investigations.
Others were banned from Cambridge.
The court remained a secret for decades until a Crimson reporter uncovered it in 2002.
When the news broke, then-president Lawrence Summers expressed his deep regrets.
Follow Steve Annear on Twitter @steveannear