Fox News host Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that a new required freshman orientation session at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government would be a required course on white privilege. Despite the fact that the session doesn't focus exclusively on race, O'Reilly used it as an excuse to attack the concept of white privilege.
On May 14, O'Reilly hosted Fox contributors Rev. Jacques Degraff and Stuart Varney to discuss what he falsely claimed would be a “required course” on white privilege at Harvard. After Degraff outlined what the term meant, O'Reilly said “I'm going to have to exempt myself” from having white privilege. He also attacked the orientation program as “inherently racist” for focusing on skin color:
In fact, the session isn't exclusively about white privilege. HKS Speak Out, the organization which pushed for the orientation session, asked for a “mandatory power and privilege training that examines components of race, gender, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, ability, religion, international status, and power differentials for every incoming HKS student starting August 2014.”
New York magazine, which reported on this, defines privilege as “a catchall term for the perks an individual enjoys in society because of his race, gender, or class.” It also explained that the course O'Reilly attacks is actually an orientation program whose structure has yet to be decided upon:
“We're at one of the most powerful institutions in the world, yet we never critically examine power and privilege and what it means to have access to this power,” says Reetu Mody, a first-year masters student in public policy and a campus activist. “We're excited to have the administration on board for training all Harvard Kennedy School first years.”
HKS Speak Out is still deciding what the content of the orientation program will be. “The substance of the training, while still under discussion, is to prepare students to understand the broad impact of identity on their decision-making and to engage them in constructive tools for dialogue,” Mody says.