DEFENSE OF THE SIT-IN
To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
"Most of all, this memorandum will challenge the Harvard Faculty to take a bold position in support of an unpopular but totally logical and just issue now confronting the academic community, nationwide. It will call upon Harvard to demonstrate positively its traditional role of national leadership." Dept. of the Army, Memorandum to the CEP, Dec. 4, 1968
Now, the United States Army has a perfect right to say that, but let's realize the context in which they are putting the present debate over ROTC. To take a position of either maintaining ROTC courses at Harvard or upgrading them is to take a position for training professional officers at a University, for the role which such officers will play in the U.S. Army, and for, consequently, the role which the U.S. military is presently engaged in. It is hardly an issue of "University neutrality."
Does Harvard want to do that? Most of the faculty arguments which I have heard at Paine Hall, the Lowell Lecture Hall Debate, and the Lowell House have failed to grasp the connection between ROTC and the war, and with a remarkable lack of a sense of urgency on the matter.
I do not deny that both the Faculty and the students had been involved in considerable discussion over the ROTC issue before the Paine Hall sit-in. Perhaps those of us who lost our bursar's cards in Paine Hall could have, and should have, contacted more faculty members directly before the meeting. But I do not agree that we represented, even in part, a group of students who make a "fetish of intolerance," "turn a debatable view of history into dogma," or engage in the "tactics of despair."
We do not have a "monopoly on moral fervor or political ardor," but we were, it is true, the only group which chose to openly challenge the Faculty's monopoly on a decision whose consequences affect students. I do not doubt the Faculty's right to meet in private on certain questions, but when it comes to the decision-making process, the Faculty must guard against the tremendous power it has as a closed body. The relatively mild tactic we adopted was legitimate to question the faculty tradition of autonomy and isolation relative to issues today, and specifically ROTC.
I cannot consider the administration blameless in this matter. For six weeks a movement has been building. A petition supporting the SDS position circulated and accrued over 700 signatures, which makes me doubt that the Paine Hall group really represented the sentiments of a small, vocal group trying to intimidate the faculty. It should have been clear after the first Faculty meeting at Memorial Hall that some mechanism for large-scale student-faculty communication was necessary. Therefore, I cannot understand why the administration scheduled the Lowell Lecture Hall debate for the day after the Faculty meeting Dec. 12, which clearly robbed students--not just SDS, but pro-ROTC people as well as those with positions in between--of finding out where significant numbers of Faculty members stood, and what proposals they were to make.
One can argue that there were more channels we should have gone through, and that not enough iniative was used by students to reach Faculty members. Well, iniative is a two-way street, and perhaps on this issue neither side is blameless.
I believe that those Faculty members who have a position on ROTC and feel strongly about it will only be encouraged by the Paine Hall sit-in to view the issue with the proper sense of urgency it deserves. For those who would prefer not to discuss ROTC in its wider implications to the war in Vietnam and to Harvard's role, however small, in perpetuating it, the question of punishment and squashing those students whose concern was too strident for them will be an ideal method of avoiding their responsibility to the students, and faculty, and themselves. However, it seems to me that to allow the latter to happen would be a sad commentary on both the decision-making process at Harvard, and Harvard's concern with problems beyond our own University confines. Hayden A. Duggan, '68-4