In announcing the University's ad hoe censorship of radio and television broadcasting at last Thursday's teach-in William Bentinck-Smith, assistant to the President, said the ban was part of a long-standing policy. Yet when pressed, he could not cite a single case in which televising had been denied to a group whose sponsors requested it. Indeed, precedent supports those who asked the President's office to allow broadcasting:
* Harvard's first teach-in, on April 15, 1965, was taped by educational station WGBH-FM and rebroadcast throughout the following week.
* An Africa teach-in on July 21, 1966, was video-taped by WGBH-TV, and major segments were televised that night on educational stations in Boston, New York, Washington and Philadelphia.
* Major portions of a three-day China conference here last April, sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe International Relations Council, were televised by WGBH-TV.
WGBH had planned extensive analysis of last week's teach-in through back-up interviews in their studios and on the scene at Lowell Lecture Hall. They were collecting historical information on the moral, political and legal aspects of dissent. The program would have been of great interest and service to the Boston community. Harvard's only "long-standing policy" in these matters has been to support such vital forums, as witnessed by the University's continued financial contributions to WGBH.
Why this sudden reaction from the University now? Bentinck-Smith said he feared that by using College buildings, the sponsors of the teach-in would get more publicity than they otherwise might. But President Pusey's office should find the fact that controversial subjects are discussed at Harvard a source of pride, not embarassment.
Bentinck-Smith also argued that television is an exceptional medium, relying too much on entertainment content. "It tends to over-dramatize events and take them out of the realm of quiet discussion," he stated. "Participants get in front of the camera and become camera conscious." These generalizations not only underestimate the potentials of television, they insult the production staff at WGBH and the many distinguished members of last Thursday's panel.
It can only concluded that the President's office, shaken by the recent Dow and McNamara incidents, is attempting to exert control over the kind and amount of publicity Harvard's Left will receive. Such interference is intolerable in a university and is flagrantly inconsist-with the ideals President Pusey insisted he was upholding at the time of the Dow demonstration.
Bentinck-Smith has announced that the University will now review its policy regarding broadcasts of non-university-sponsored events. The administration should not let its-panicky reaction to last week's teach-in lead it to formulate a restrictive general rule. The criteria for news coverage should be the wishes of the sponsors and participants in such events.