The College granted Kirkland House preliminary approval to change its shield, capping a years-long effort by students and House affiliates to redesign the emblem due to its resemblance to the Confederate flag.
In an email to Faculty Deans Verena A. and Tom C. Conley, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana assented to the new design and lauded the pair for creating a “welcoming and inclusive” House environment.
“Kirkland is free to use the alternative shield,” he wrote. “I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge all your efforts in engaging Kirkland in thinking about symbols.”
The heraldic artist Pierre de Chaignon la Rose, class of 1895, designed the original Kirkland shield while he was a member of the Committee on Arms, Seal, and Diplomas. It features the Kirkland family crest overlaid with the cross of the Bishop of Carlisle — the Scottish home of the Kirkland family.
The design — a cross adorned with three stars — has sparked some controversy over the years due to complaints that it resembles the flag of the Confederate States of America.
The redesign features three stars — arranged in an inverted triangle position — emblazoned on a black and crimson background.
Verena said in an interview Thursday that the House selected the new design with extensive input from House affiliates. Those efforts included two House-wide town halls in November 2019, student questionnaires, and individual and group meetings to gather feedback.
House affiliates mainly objected to the emblem’s cross, according to Conley. She said that it was the most “salient feature” in calls for change.
“It became more or less apparent that the removal of the bar was important to everybody,” she said. “In the spirit of diversity and inclusion, we cannot have a cross since that appeals only to a certain segment of the population.”
Conley and Kirkland House Committee Chair Andrea J. Zhang ’22 presented the design to a meeting of the Committee on Student Life last Thursday.
Zhang said she believes the original design diminished Kirkland residents’ public House pride.
“People always make fun of Kirkland House during their Housing Day videos for our shield, so people don’t always want to say that they’re in Kirkland,” Zhang said. “Also, some people have not been using the laptop stickers or not buying merch because they didn’t like the shield.”
The alternative shield is still awaiting approval for use in major University events like Commencement and for merchandise sold at the COOP, Zhang said. The new shield, however, is set to make its College-wide debut during Housing Day.
Conley explained that several steps remain before the House can fully transition to the new shield, adding that the process has been “long and drawn out.” The new design is currently under review by the Harvard Trademark Office, according to Conley.
Aside from logistical hurdles, Conley said House leadership is still weighing how to transition from the old design.
“You will have to retire the existing shield, and how are you going to do that, and what are you going to do about it?” she said. “How are you going to defend that to posterity?"
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