Pusey at SFAC

Brass Tacks

PRESIDENT PUSEY'S appearance before the Student-Faculty Advisory Council March 25 may prove to be one of the more significant meetings this year at Harvard. Its probable future importance lies not with the new information presented by the President concerning negotiations with the military, nor with SDS's brief entrance and exit, but rather with the clarification of President Pusey's view on the relation of Harvard to the outside society.

As a member of SFAC, I speak only for myself. But in conversations with many of the other members, particularly students and junior faculty, I have found a similarity of views.

At least two important conclusions were reached by many of those who attended. First, the Faculty deeply resented President Pusey's "egregious misuse," as one faculty member described it, of the Faculty-passed ROTC resolution. They felt that the President not only ignored the intent of the majority behind the February 4 resolution, but also used it to justify a quite different policy. Second, many members left with the impression that President Pusey is sadly out of touch with the large majority of the University community. He put forth a view of the society--the dangers and priorities--which most of those at the SFAC meeting appeared to reject.

As one liberal SFAC member said afterward, "He certainly seemed sincere in his views: it's just that they were all incredibly different from my own. It's sad." One Faculty member said near the close of the March 25 meeting, "At the end of our meeting last year with you [President Pusey], I expressed my own fears that we really hadn't been able to get across to you the concern which we felt. Again this year, I'm afraid that there hasn't been any real dialogue."

Prior to the SFAC meeting, many Faculty members and students had attacked President Pusey's stand on ROTC, as expressed in his letter to Dean Ford, for what they felt was a misinterpretation of the Faculty's intent. There had been no chance to question him, however, about the reasoning behind the "egregious misuse" of the resolution. Few believed that he had maliciously misinterpreted the resolution; most liberals on SFAC seemed to believe that he had some special reasons for saying what he had. These, many felt, might be brought to light by his testimony before the closed meeting which he had insisted upon.

OTHERS ON SFAC appeared to feel that his stand, which he had couched in academic terms in his letter to Dean Ford, should be more honestly stated in political terms. Several SFAC members asked peripheral questions trying to get the President to edge toward a political justification for his position. Stephen J. Gould, assistant professor of Geological Sciences, asked President Pusey why he had neglected to mention the CEP resolution, which the Faculty has soundly defeated, while commending the Faculty for defeating the Putnam resolution, in his letter to Dean Ford. Both the CEP and Putnam resolutions had been rejected, Gould argued; yet he had "commended" the Faculty for one and seemingly forgotten the other.

The President answered, "I don't see why the Faculty didn't pass the CEP resolution. Perhaps it was poorly drafted. It did look rather lengthy." He added that many Faculty members seemed to think that something was being put over on them with the CEP resolution and that possibly this was another reason for its rejection. This remark seemed to rankle many of the Faculty members.

Benjamin I. Schwartz, professor of History and Government and one of the more conservative Faculty members of SFAC, asked why ROTC couldn't be considered merely another "extra-curricular-activity." He was questioning the necessity for the special relationship between the University and the Pentagon in order for ROTC to stay on campus which President Pusey had outlined earlier in the meeting.

"ROTC, from its point of view, isn't here just to provide a pleasant experience for undergraduates," the President replied. "ROTC's goal is to recruit officers; they make no bones about it. Our interest is to provide an opportunity for a young man to satisfy his military obligations and remain in college."

What Gould and Schwartz appeared to be trying to point out was that the decision to keep ROTC could be based on several different rationales. Charles Maier, instructor in History, pointed out that SFAC had voted to maintain ROTC only because thee was no way to exclude ROTC without infringing on the rights of free association. Martin Peretz, assistant professor of Social Studies, pointed out that this was the rationale behind many Faculty members' support of the SFAC resolution on ROTC which passed the Faculty.

This liberal or left-liberal rationale which Peretz enunciated implies that the University should make only the minimal effort to keep ROTC--only so that no one would be denied their rights. Peretz said that the Faculty didn't want the University "to find all kinds of congenial arrangements with the Department of Defense," and asked Pusey why the Corporation had made this "political" decision.

Pusey replied that "there are people as guilty as I of trying to interpret what the Faculty's feeling was. What is clear is that the Faculty had a clear choice to oust ROTC from campus," the President continued, "and it was voted down with a resounding thud. I think it's important that ROTC be kept here. I personally feel it's terribly important for the United States of America that college people go into the military. I do think that the government in Washington remains our government. And the military arm of that government remains our arm. We should cooperate in these structures so that our influence within them remains operative."

For President Pusey, then, the Faculty had only two positions on ROTC. Either it could vote to abolish it or to keep it. If the Faculty voted to keep it then all negotiations on the "minor points" would have to be handled by the Corporation because, as Pusey said, "only the Corporation can enter into a contractual relationship."

After an hour and a half of questioning on ROTC, President Pusey refused to admit, much less accept, that there could be any valid rationale for keeping ROTC which was any different from his belief that the University should cooperate fully with the military. The liberal "civil liberties" rationale, even if it was the reason for the Faculty's retention of ROTC, could not be the basis of a Corporation-negotiated contract with the Defense Department. This was his and the Corporation's job.

In answer to another question he said that since there was no unanimity of opinion on any topic in the Harvard community, the President must speak for the University. He said that he only speaks on educational policy when the University is directly threatened.