The Paine Hall sit-in has been widely interpreted as a blow struck in behalf of the greater representation of student opinion in Faculty decisions. But is such as interpretation accurate? In my view, this analysis of the sit-in is quite misleading and, in some respects, almost the reverse of the truth.
In the first place, it is clear that the position on ROTC supported by those who sat in was never intended to reflect student opinion on this matter. The SDS position, roughly, is that ROTC must disappear from Harvard and that there is no student right to participate in a Harvard ROTC unit even on a completely voluntary non-credit, extracurricular basis. The SDS has never claimed that this view was "representative"; they have opposed a student referendum on ROTC. Their claim is simply that their position is "morally right" and, in this, they have the support of what I take to be a certain minority of both students and Faculty. The motivation behind the sit-in was to represent not a group (the student bodies of Harvard and Radcliffe) but a point of view (that no form of ROTC shall be permitted at this University). This point of view, incidentally, had been presented at length at the previous Faculty meeting by Professor Putnam and Mr. Boyd. Ironically, it is a view whose implementation would limit student rights even though the majority of students might feel otherwise.
Second, it should be noted that on the specific issue of ROTC the Faculty had shown itself unusually responsive to student opinion. The ROTC issue was raised at student initiative. The Faculty has received resolutions from the SFAC and the HUC and also the excellent report of HRPC. At the same Faculty meeting when Professor Putnam spoke, Professor Albritton reported on the discussions of ROTC in SFAC and Professor Lipset recorded the views of YPSL, including the view that a college-wide referendum should be taken. Moreover, the ensuing Faculty discussion suggested that Faculty views on ROTC are quite close to representative student opinions, certainly much closer than are those of SDS. This is simply not a case of students holding one view and the Faculty another with the generation gap between. It is a case of a minority of students and Faculty in basic opposition to the will of the probable majority of both.
Apart from ROTC, of course, it can be argued that students should have the right to be present at Faculty meetings or at least to send representatives in some capacity. The central fact, however, is that this point was not argued. This is really the crux of the whole issue. The students who sat in almost totally ignored the avenues of orderly change presently available to them. If the key question was student participation in Faculty meetings, why was this question not raised with the SFAC which was created precisely to study and recommend on such matters? Why were student views on representation at Faculty meetings not developed, prepared and presented to the Faculty with the same care and reasoned argument that went into the various student presentations on ROTC? Why were the ordinary channels of discussion and persuasion avoided? Why was confrontation chosen not as the last but as the first resort?
My personal view is that students who willingly and knowingly violated the statutes of the University in Paine Hall should be suspended. My main reason is not that they have violated the understandings that emerged from the Dow incident of last year, nor even that they have disobeyed the explicit instructions of the Deans given both at the time and well in advance, but that they have attacked the concept of reasoned discussion on which this University is founded and for which it exists. In this instance, their offense against the laws of the University is even more deeply an offense against its spirit. Richard T. Gill '48 Master of Leverett House