The Faculty's Stern Decision
On the Other Hand
(The following represents the opinion of a minority of the Editorial Board. The majority opinion appeared in yesterday's Crimson)
The Faculty's decision to place 74 undergraduates on probation for their participation in the Mallinckrodt sitin is regrettably severe. The judgement, however, is more a sharp warning than a stinging punitive blow to overzealous anti-war demonstrators.
By not severing anyone, the Faculty realized that many of the students became involved in the demonstration on the spur of the moment last Wednesday. Their activities grew out of justifiable bitterness over the war and the use of napalm. At most, only a few of those punished were determined to mount a premeditated assault on the rules of the University. And many of the demonstrators now regret the tactic of obstruction they used to protest the war and Dow's appearance at Harvard.
The gravity of the demonstration is also mitigated by the Administration's failure after last year's McNamara incident to outline what reprisals would occur in the event of another obstructive protest. Dean Monro's statement at the time was too vague to serve as a deterrent or as a policy.
Nonetheless, the Faculty's belief that the demonstration was repugnant is correct. The students who sat-in rested their defense on a dangerous belief that the war is so immoral that it justifies infringements on individuals' fundamental rights of free discussion and movement.
Surely many Faculty members were keenly aware that 15 years ago the Mallinckrodt demonstrators' arguments were employed by politicians so righteous in their anticommunism that they wanted to deny basic rights to "questionable" individuals. At that time, the Harvard Faculty stated that those who hold unpopular opinions should not be muzzled and must be able to exercise their rights. The Faculty vote on Tuesday reiterated that wise statement. It was also, quite obviously, an effort to deter future abuse of civil rights on this campus.
Although the punishment was too harsh, the Administrative Board's procedure was the most fair and scrupulous possible under the circumstances. To some extent the Board had to be arbitrary: because the bursars' cards of resisters, picketers, and sympathizers alike were all turned over en masse, it was impossible for University officers and senior tutors to identify all the students who imprisoned the Dow representative. In addition, the students who were identified were given the chance to explain the exact nature of their involvement in the demonstration.
Many demonstrators believed that since their act was "political," each of them--whether he sat in or not--deserved the same punishment. Therefore they denied the very basis of the punishment--physical obstruction--and refused to clear themselves even if not directly involved. By insisting on the collective moral strength of their cause, some demonstrators precluded any cooperation with a Board that was bent on being fair to everyone concerned.
The Faculty's failure Tuesday to make a statement on the Vietnam war, or on recruiters, or on Faculty-student relations, does not mean a lack of serious concern about these and other issues. Professor Hoffmann's suggestion for a Faculty-student-Administration committee is a welcome indication of concern. President Pusey should implement this suggestion as soon as possible in order to begin meaningful communication between Faculty and students. Now that the Faculty has taken action against the Mallinckrodt offenders, it should discuss possibilities to avoid the growing division between "us and them."