Four members of the Class of 1967 who were denied commissions by the Harvard Army ROTC last spring have written a letter to Dean Ford criticizing "improper and irregular practices" by the ROTC officers.
According to Army officials, the four students were the first "in memory" to be disenrolled after completing the entire Harvard ROTC program. Their letter did not seek personal redress, but instead outlined several procedures which they believed should be prevented in the future.
First, they stated that a letter received June 2 was the first indication since March that their performance in the program was "in any way unsatisfactory." The students also objected to the fact that they had no opportunity to appear before Colonel Robert H. Pell, Professor of Military Science, or before the board which made the decision against them (the board consisted of three of Pell's subordinate officers).
Instead, the four students wrote letters of appeal which they said were answered June 13--three days before the beginning of summer camp which three of the students had planned to attend, and less than an hour before commissioning ceremonies would have occured for the fourth.
One of the strongest accusations included in the letter was that the Harvard ROTC officers, on three occasions, refused to advise the students on their appelate rights.
The letter to Ford claimed that both Pell and Major John P. Hess, the unit adjutant and the associate professor of Military Science, were asked specifically if there was any higher Army authority to whom they could appeal the decision. Pell and Hess answered that there existed no avenue of appeal through the Army command structure, the letter states, even though a military lawyer at Fort Devens later informed them otherwise.
Pell did, in fact, forward the students' records and letters of appeal to the ROTC headquarters at the Pentagon, but he still maintains that the students have no right of appeal except through the head of Army ROTC.
The letter to Ford did not question Pell's right to withhold commissions, although it stated that "There is evi- dence that in doing so he violated University practice and procedure by basing his decision on irregular and improper requirements."
The four students said that if the decision to withhold commissions was made on academic grounds (all four received D's), as at first suggested, then the Colonel overlooked two students whose standing was lower than at least one of the four he chose not to commission.
On the other hand, they claim, if the decision was based on discretionary grounds (Pell's perogative), then the Colonel based it to a considerable extent on degree of participation in extracurricular ROTC activities. "And in any case, the manner in which he acted represents, we fell, an intolerable violation of the explicit standards of the University," the letter said.
Restraints on ROTC
The letter, dated September 25, concluded by asking Harvard for a 'firm, formal and unmistakable definition of the University's position to Colonel Pell and a vigilant, consistent application of restraints on Army ROTC to guarantee that Harvard students will not again be subjected to the improper and irregular practices from which we have suffered."
It is signed by Henry N. Beard '67, William Wodward III '67, George P. Denny '67, and William T. Mason '67. All are currently in Reserve units.
Pell, in his position as professor of Military Science, and Hess, as an associate professor, both hold Faculty positions for as long as their assignment to Harvard ROTC lasts. Last year was Pell's first at Harvard.
Undergraduates in ROTC receive regular academic credit and grades in ROTC, although, according to Dean Ford, most students take it as a fifth course.