The Faculty Acts
Harvard was big news last weekend in Washington and Baltimore newspapers. They carried copy to the effect that the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of the nation's oldest university had seen fit to dispatch a note to the Navy objecting to the "informer clause" of the NROTC loyalty certificate.
At its Tuesday meeting, the Faculty had called up Captain Carroll T. Bonney to explain the interpretation and application of the oath at Harvard, and before the afternoon was over, the Faculty had instructed its NROTC head to tell the Navy in Washington that Harvard's teachers think the "informer clause" should be stricken from the certificate. Such an expression carries so much weight that a three month campaign of many groups and individuals toward the removal of the "informer clause" may soon be very successfully concluded.
The Faculty's action is commendable and healthy. In the first place, the Tuesday action exhibits a willingness of the Faculty to consider and take quick action on matters brought up largely by the pressure of student groups. Even more important, the fact that Harvard's protest came from the level of the Faculty and not of the Corporation indicates clearly that the Faculty is quite willing and able to take the matter of academic freedom into its own hands and move to protect it.
Tuesday's Faculty action still leaves several questions unanswered, however, and the Faculty and the Corporation would both do well to take note. Simply striking out the "informer clause" will not settle the other problems raised by the NROTC certificate.
First, the important question of guilt by association still remains; just because a man may once have been present at an informal gathering of one of the 160 organizations listed as subversive, is he himself guilty of holding every view that particular organization nourishes? Second, on the Harvard level, if the certificate is usually administered to incoming students, one might think it would pertain only to a pre-Harvard background; but will NROTC students later be asked to renew their certificates as a check on what they have done since coming to College? Finally, shouldn't there at least be a set of criteria for any future widening of the list of organizations considered as "subversive?" None exist now.
The Faculty's action against the "informer ously with a major breach in the nation's security in the Fuchs affair, should point up the inadequacy of the present standardized U.S. government method of checking up on loyalty. There are serious things wrong with a system that cannot catch the big men like Fuchs but instead impairs only the freedom of many little men whose lack of important scientific knowledge, as well as their limited access to vital information, may rule them out as effective threats to security.
The Faculty's action against. th "informer clause" is excellent so far as it goes. But the "informer clause" is only one part of the bigger problem.