Harvard and the Navy
The Navy has removed the obscurity from one significant clause in the loyalty questionnaire distributed this Fall to all Harvard NROTC students. This clause requires Navy men to supply--along with a confession of any formal or informal association with groups on the Attorney General's "subversive" list--a list of "names and addresses of others similarly associated or acting."
What did the word "others" mean? Other NROTC men? Other undergraduates? Wednesday night the Bureau of Naval Personnel wired the CRIMSON: "Word 'others' refers to all other persons, regardless of naval or academic affiliations, within the recollection of the individual, who are personally known by him and who are also personally known by him and who are also personally known by him to be or have been similarly associated or acting."
This is one of the most peculiar regulations in the history of national security. The Navy, supposedly insuring the loyalty of its own personnel, has now taken upon itself the task of checking on the entirely legal comings and goings of private citizens. Why does the Navy concern itself with the political activity of persons not in the Armed Services? How does the Navy--or possibly some other government agency--plan to use this information gathered at the expense of individual privacy?
The loyalty quiz was objectionable even before it was "clarified" by the Bureau of Naval Personnel. The questionnaire is based on a list drawn up by one man, the Attorney General; it asks questions based on the principle of guilt by association; and it is then sifted by loyalty boards, which in recently publicized instances have shown irresponsibility.
This loyalty procedure cannot even effectively screen out potential traitors: an agent of a "Communist, Facist, or totalitarian" power would lie his way through the Navy's test without compunction. An honest man, however, might be caught up because of an incident in his past, and the country thus deprived of his services.
It is in the university community that this questionnaire, as recently amplified by the Navy ruling, works the greatest damage. An NROTC student who has to testify to his past purity is subjected to a form of political intimidation. If he wishes to avoid trouble, he will be extremely unlikely to exercise his curiosity by examining the operations and doctrines of proscribed groups. And even the student who doesn't go near NROTC headquarters will be wary of listening to ideas labeled "subversive," if he knows that a person "similarly associated" may one day jot this down on a Navy questionnaire for possible use by a government official who views all political activity as red and white.
Neither Harvard nor any other university can afford to have students shy away from the controversial questions of the day. Education verges on the meaningless if a student feels he is taking a personal risk when he seeks to listen to, understand, and grapple with troublesome ideas. University officials, in statements made over the years, have shown that Harvard understands this principle. If the principle is to stand, the University now must use all the power at its command to end these interferences with free inquiry made in the name of loyalty. It would be pointless, and harmful to military security, for the University to expel its excellent NROTC unit. But the University can help American higher education to save its vitality if it will demand that the Navy exempt all NROTC students from the present loyalty test.