To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
The unrelieved shrillness of your editorial of October 2. "The Shame of Faculty Silence," has overcome a long-standing rule of mine against indulging in letters to editors. What the Crimson does to its role as a reporter and ideally as a shaper of opinion at Harvard is obviously none of my business--though I am entitled to my own views about the effect on thoughtful readers of this sort of rhetorical overkill. What does concern me is the possible distortion of motives and effects implicit in your discussion of last week's visit to Washington by fifteen members of this Faculty.
It would appear that refusal to comment on the details of interviews with President Johnson and other Governmen officials is to be treated as in itself reprehensible. Before making up your mind on that score, you might wish to consider the fact that the trip was not taken at the initiative of any of the Faculty members, but at the President's personal invitation. That circumstance did not require any of us to change his mind, but it did dictate decent respect for the request that we honor the confidentiality of the interviews themselves. Equally important was the knowledge that unless security as to substance was guaranteed in advance, nothing of real interest was likely to be said down there -- and none of us wanted to make the trip without hope of learning anything.
The other reason why no member of the group felt justified in talking with the press was that we did not, and do not, represent Harvard University or any definite constituency within it. It is highly doubtful that anyone involved feels qualified to speak even for the others in this small group. We have all assumed that the right not to dither, but instead to formulate and express one's opinion carefully, in the proper context, is an important aspect of the right of free speech itself.
Every member of the wholly informal delegation that went to Washington last Tuesday was there (on this at least, I think, it is safe to generalize) because of a sense of deep foreboding about the present drift of United States' policy in Vietnam. Such was the motive which inspired our letter of last June to President Johnson, asking if there were any way in which we could be helpful to him in resisting pressure for extension and intensification of the war. As for myself, the events and official statements of the summer have only increased the worries of last June; and the recent expedition to the capital did nothing to diminish them. For the moment, however, I have too much confidence in the good sense and intellectual decency of the Harvard community to fear that honoring a commitment with regard to the confidentiality of specific discussions, while digesting what one learned and trying to develop one's own position more fully and knowledgeably, will be generally viewed as "shameful." Franklin L. Ford Dean of the Faculty