Zachary Quinto to Produce Podcast on Harvard's Anti-Gay 'Secret Court'

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday December 22, 2020

Out "Boys in the Band" and "Star Trek" actor Zachary Quinto is spearheading production of a podcast that will examine a secretive 1920 "court" at Harvard University that identified and persecuted gays, Deadline reports.

The podcast, titled "Secret Court," "comes 100 years after Harvard sophomore Cyril Wilcox took his own life," Deadline noted. The young man had been part of a "small group of gay male students," and his suicide prompted the formation of a clandestine committee that ferreted out and expelled eight students, as well as implicating "four 'accomplices' and a handful of Cambridge locals," Deadline reports.

"The ad-hoc court shamed and denounced these innocents as offenders, purging and erasing them from all official records as if they never existed at Harvard at all," Deadline adds. "And it had been kept a dark secret for more than 80 years."

Awards Watch reports that the podcast is "a deeply felt, surprising and unflinching look into the lives of the young men searching for connection and community in a world that rejected and reviled them."

Quinto, who will also serve as the podcast's narrator, said, "I'm honored to lend my voice and help amplify the story of these promising young members of the LGBTQ+ community, who were marginalized and sidelined due to the social intolerance of their day.

"A hundred years later, I am grateful to their contributions and sacrifices, and recognize that I stand on their shoulders today," Quinto added.

University newspaper the Harvard Gazette reported on the "secret court" earlier this year, recalling that it was the work of a student at the university in 2002 that brought the committee's existence, as well as its actions against students and others it deemed to be gay, to light once more.

Amit Paley, then a sophomore, had found a reference to "Secret Court Files" in the University Archives. Intrigued, Paley - who went on after graduating in 2004 to become the CEO of the Trevor Project - began to look into the so-called "secret court," and uncovered "the existence of a hidden tribunal consisting of five Harvard administrators, overseen by University President Abbott Lawrence Lowell," the Gazette reported.

The court investigated thirty students, the article said. "Based on its findings, eight were expelled; a recent graduate was banned from campus; and an assistant professor was required to step down," the Gazette article added.

Since then, the committee's existence and actions have been the subject of historic and academic inquiry. One scholar who looked into the episode was Harvard Professor Diana Eck, who described herself as having been "startled" by "the extent to which the University had not only gone to punish these boys by expelling them, but by including in their transcript something that alleged this nefarious behavior and that basically said to any would-be employer or subsequent college that they would not recommend them under any circumstances.

"That's just shameful," Eck told the Gazette.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.