FOR A VARIETY of visceral reasons the Faculty will probably be tempted to punish severely the students who sat in at Paine Hall. Some will quickly lump the R.O.T.C. demonstration with those against Robert McNamara and the Dow Chemical Company and conclude that this sort of thing can't be allowed to happen year after year. Others will be particularly offended because this Fall it was the Harvard Faculty, not unknown outsider like Dow's Mr. Leavit, whose usual business was interrupted.
But these considerations are beside the point in dealing justly with the demonstrators. Closely regarded, the Paine Hall sit-in calls for no punishment at all, certainly nothing so severe as requiring the students to leave the college.
One should begin by conceding that blame for this tawdry charade of confrontation does not rest entirely with the students. The sit-in challenged the tradition of closed Faculty meetings--a challenge that was not met with the shadow of rational answer Thursday afternoon.
Cancelling the meeting at 2:30 and calling the sit-in "a very serious obstruction of Faculty business" was not the only course of action open to the Deans. They could have converted the special meeting to an open forum with no votes. They could have allowed the whole Faculty to convene and decide whether or not to waive the closed meeting rule. Professor Michael Walzer told the the students afterwards that he had planned to introduce such a motion. If some one had told that group that before, they might well have voted not to sit-in.
In fact, no one physically prevented anyone from doing anything at Paine Hall. Because the meeting was cancelled so early, the students can be charged with preventing the Faculty from meeting only in a very shaky symbolic sense. At worst they disobeyed an order from Dean Glimp. That is an offense, but a milder and different one than physically blocking the movement of a Dow recruiter. It therefore merits milder, not more severe, punishment than the probation slapped on those who sat in at Malinckrodt--either admonition or no punishment at all. Expelling the demonstrators from the Harvard community (subjecting them immediately to the draft as well) would be entirely out of proportion to the metaphorical obstruction at Paine.
RECOMMENDATIONS for disciplining the demonstrators will come as usual from the Administrative Board, whose procedural defects are enough in themselves to make severe punishment inadvisable. It's no secret that the case-by-case routine of the board is better suited to benevolent chiding of academic sluggards and habitual Coop thieves than to harshly punishing large groups of political demonstrators. Last Spring the Ad Board considered revising its procedures--especially for obstructive demonstrations--but ended up doing nothing.
And so a half-hour elapsed Thursday at Paine between the declared offense and the collection of bursar's cards, a half-hour in which anyone could wander in and out. When members of the board did collect the cards, they apparently missed a good number of those present. A teaching fellow at the scene collected 27 cards after University officers left, but the ad board has refused to accept them.
With the identification process this haphazard, it would be outrageous for the ad board to expel the selected group they say they saw. Even students who have no sympathy with the protest would be disgusted by this kind of divide-and-conquer tactic.
Professor Stanley Hoffmann is right in suggesting that debate over how to punish the demonstrators is a waste of time delaying Faculty consideration of real issues like R.O.T.C. and student representation. But one trusts that he is wrong in claiming that the Paine Hall demonstration has lessened the chances of reforming the R.O.T.C program or changing the way Faculty business is conducted. It is hard to conceive of the Faculty's deciding these issues on the basis of petulance rather than reason. One trusts too, that the Faculty will handle the smaller issue of punishment with proper care, and that for reasons of justice as well as mercy they will choose to treat the demonstrators with leniency.