On the eve of this year's Yale game, the Alumni Association's Committee to Nominate Candidates for Overseers met in Boston and worked out a ten man slate that included the name of United Nations Under-Secretary Ralphe Bunche. Three months later, when the list had been published, Archibald B. Roosevelt '17 (son of T.R.) dispatched a long letter (see box) to President Pusey, expressing his horror at reading of Bunche's candidacy for the Board of Overseers, and urging Pusey to "find means to quash this most inappropriate nomination."
Faced with an unsympathetic reply from Massachusetts Hall, an organization called the Veritas Foundation--of which Roosevelt is President--decided to take the case to the voters. Forty-five thousand copies of the letter were printed and recently mailed to every living College alumnus. His fellow Trustees--Arthur Brooks Harlow '25 and William A. Robertson '33--joined Roosevelt in signing a covering letter which outlined the "general objective" of their Foundation:
"To educate the officials, teaching staffs, governing bodies, undergraduates and graduates of American colleges and universities upon the subject of communism, the international communist conspiracy and its methods of infiltration in to the United States."
Furthermore, the Foundation promised "supporting documentation" on Bunche's "left-wing activities" to any alumnus, curious or upset, who would contribute a dollar or more to the cause. Prepared and published by a New York research firm known as The Alliance, Inc--of which Roosevelt is both founder and President--the documentation fills a 49-page mimeographed book-let which opens with a carefully worded statement:
"This report intends to prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that Dr. Bunche for a number of years had expressed himself in writings, speeches, and organizational activity in a manner which paralleled the communist line in its major aspects. Further evidence is hereby presented to prove his expressions were of such a nature that they could only have been arrived at as a result of his going through a thorough indoctrination in communist methods and techniques. It will also be shown that his affiliations and activities were such as to fill the requirements necessary for a top level operative for the Kremlin apparatus."
Bunche's nomination for high University office however, is just the latest in a series of issues raised by the Veritas group and its supporters. In 1956, when the Harvard Cooperation invited physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer to deliver the William James Lectures on Science and Philosophy, five Bostonians organized the original Veritas Committee--the Foundation's ideological godfather.
Two items in Oppenheimer's past should disqualify him for such an honor, Veritas claimed: his pre-war Communist associations, and an admitted lie to Government investigators. This second point dominated the anti-Oppenheimer campaign. With heavy logic, Veritas drummed away at the charge that a proved liar was coming to lecture on ethics "to the young students at Harvard." As a matter of fact, ethics had nothing to do with Oppenheimer's lecture series, which dealt with the philosophical implications of modern science.
Veritas members nevertheless sent out hundreds of letters to classmates and alumni acquaintances, urging protest against the appointment. Kenneth D. Robertson, Jr. '29 wrote to the Hon. Charles E. Wyzanski, Jr. '27 (then Chairman of the Board of Overseers), asking "whether or not you now approve of the Oppenheimer appointment as William James lecturer," and "your views as to Dr. Oppenheimer's moral qualifications to lecture on the subject of ethics and philosophy." Though Robertson's letter began with some valid questions (the second never answered), it ended with a polemic:
"If this letter makes you angry by speaking too plainly, please don't take it out on me. After all, I didn't have a Communist as a an intimate 'girl friend,' didn't contribute money to the Communist party, didn't associate with Communists and employ them in secret Government work or fail to pass security tests. Nor have I lied about the forgoing when questioned thereon. Finally, don't blame me for appointing him."
Though it failed to block the lectures, this campaign was not without its effects. The Harvard Administration was quite thoroughly alienated by what it considered a vindictive and useless attack. Edwin Ginn '18, an agent of the Harvard Fund, dramatically resigned his post in protest against Oppenheimer's appointment. A group of undergraduates revived a small organization called the Harvard Athenaeum in support of Veritas and later the Committee gave financial support to the conservative review Fortnightly.
Finally, in an attempt at direct action, Veritas collected the 200 signatures necessary to nominate one of its supporters by petition as a candidate for the Board of Overseers. Though the name of Col. Laurence E. Bunker '26 a former aide of Gen. MacArthur) did appear on the official ballot, and though half-page ads supporting him were inserted in Cleveland and Philadelphia newspapers, the Veritas candidate failed to gain election. In consequence, the group was reduced to its alumni mailings and sporadic contact with Harvard officials.
Oppenheimer came and spoke, of course, and left. But the Veritas group soon made it clear that their protest extended beyond Oppenheimer's appointment to "communist infiltration at Harvard," and the College's "trend to the left." In '57 and '58, two further issues were raised: the professional integrity of historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. '38, and the appointment of Mark Zborowski as a Research Assistant in Social Anthropology.
On April 22, 1958, the Philadelphia Inquirer headlined, "Harvard Aide Held in $20,000 Bail as Red Purjurer." The aide was Zborowski, who, according to the authorities, was for 25 years "a trusted Soviet secret police agent whose reports were read personally by Stalin." When Kenneth Robertson asked for the "essential facts surrounding the case of Comrade Zborowski," Pusey replied only that he had been "appointed last Spring by the President and Fellows." Robertson wrote back as follows:
"It seems to me that you, the Fellows, and most of the Board of Overseers have consistently revealed--and are still revealing--apathetic naivete about the whole question of the Kremlin-inspired subversion of our Blessed Country. Were it otherwise, you and they would know that one of the prime objectives of the Soviet is to place as many of their agents as possible inside the major schools and colleges of our Country. That they have done so, successfully, can hardly be denied by you or by any member of the Harvard Corporation. Indeed, it would be interesting to know whether, today, you would be as sure of yourself in saying: 'You know, Mr. Robertson, there aren't any Communists at Harvard.'"
In order to "cut down on all future infiltration as well as to pin the blame for those subversives who slip by," Robertson proposed a special committee to pass on all Faculty and staff appointments. Presumably, its members would include Veritas sympathizers and others who would "oppose, vigorously, all attempts at Harvard, to shackle, to suppress or to discourage the expression of the Constitutional, conservative, free enterprise point of view."