The CRR Empty Evidence
TWO hundred students rallied at Memorial Church on April 9 and then rushed toward the Center for International Affairs (CFIA). They disrupted a Visiting Committee meeting in a second-floor seminar room. As CFIA and Visiting Committee members left the building and scattered, demonstrators followed CFIA director Robert R. Bowie. They obstructed his car in Mallinckrodt parking lot and blocked a taxi cab Bowie tried to take at the Harvard Square Klosk. Later, he decided to charge 20 students with violating the Faculty resolution on Rights and Responsibilities.
Hearsay testimony, meaningless photographs, and blatant selectivity characterized the evidence in the cases which Bowie presented last weekend before the Committee on Rights and Responsibilities (CRR). The prosecution typically began with "live testimony" about the noisy and boisterons nature of the April 9 CFIA demonstration-but, in more than half the cases, those prosecution witnesses who testified did not claim they actually saw the defendant at the protest.
In the majority of cases, pictures taken by Gazette photographer Rick Stafford and an unnamed University photographer were the sole incriminating evidence. The photographs usually showed the accused student in a pensive, dispassionate mood far away from the center of action. Bowie signed only three sets of charges: presence on the second floor of the CFIA. blocking his car in the Mallinckrodt parking lot, and obstructing his taxi cab at the Harvard Square kiosk. However, his two prosecution lawyers submitted as evidence photographs of students at Memorial Church before the CFIA demonstration and in the Cambridge Common after the protest fizzled out.
Though vigorously denied. selectivity in pressing charges was glaringly apparent. At Dean Sheppard's hearng. Alan Heimert "declined to accept" Mem Church photos as evidence and therefore only one photograph of Sheppard remained, showing him on the second floor of the CFIA. Sheppard's first witness was "Paul Gross" (a pseudonym), who identified himself in the photograph as standing on the second floor of the CFIA right next to Sheppard. Bowie had not pressed charges against "Gross."
Bowie's flimsy cases will probably result in very light sentences or perhaps a wholesale dismissal of the charges. The CFIA policy on demonstrations is unclear. After the Weatherman attack last fall. the Center even welcomed a militant NAC tour through the building. Last week, the CFIA gave a friendly response to those who milled in. It seems that the CFIA attitude toward demonstrations would only confuse a reasonable man.
When one considers protesters who blocked Bowie's car and taxi cab, other reasons for dismissing the charges come into play. The photographs almost without exception showed accused students standing far away from Bowie's car and taxi. Even with students near the vehicles, most photographs proved only presence, not obstruction. The incidents in the parking lot and at the kiosk did not reveal bloodthirsty demonstrators, but they did show Bowie as a frightfully high-keyed man geared to overreaction. In the parking lot, Archibald Cox convinced Bowie that driving his car over demonstrators would be inadvisable. AT Harvard Square, Cox conned Bowie into thinking that President Pusey had personally asked Bowie to step out of the taxi cab, thus not obligating Cambridge police to clear the Square as Bowie had wished. (Cox had actually decided to speak for Pusey without consulting him.)
UNDERLYING Bowie's poorly prepared prosecution is a more basic question. Bowie charged students with an "unacceptable obstruction of the essential processes of the University." But many of those charged presented forecful arguments that the Visiting Committee and the CFIA itself are not essential but really detrimental processes of the University.
It seems that future demonstrations can take one of two paths. The Administration could invest thousands of dollars in video tape machines and dress photographers in riot gear for defense against demonstrators who would be understandably irate. When the video tape was suggested at a CRR hearing. Bowie responded favorably. (No longer would Bowie waste the CRR's time with flimsy evidence.)
But the costs of such accurate demonstration identification far outweight the benefits it would have to Bowie and others who are gung-ho on prosecuting. The University would more and more take on the atmosphere of a police state with increasing polarization between the Administration and students. The number of CRR hearings would skyrocket as students could justifiably demonstrate that the Administration was engendering a fascist community.
The other solution is for the CRR to refuse to entertain charges against most of the obstructive demonstrations unless there are instances of physical injury. Such a policy would, of course, require much more use of student opinion to curtail demonstrations. When one CRR member heard this suggestion, his main concern was "Why nothing would be done if someone tried obstructing my classes!"
But when King Collins tried to drown out professors last year, he was invariably hissed down. Student opinion protected academic freedom last year and could be relied upon in the future. When SDS tried to take over the ROTC building a few weeks ago, student moderates realized ROTC was being phased out during the next year and blocked the path to Shannon Hall.
This soft line approach would necessitate paying more careful attention to the demands of student radicals. It would involve more negotiation and communication between the divergent groups. If a takeover of University Hall, for instance, lasted for a week with administrators ??? negotiating to no avail. it seems that students would ask the Administration to invoke temporary suspension against the demonstrators. followed by CRR hearings. (But there would be no such student sentiment if the protesters' demands were completely above reproach.) If demonstrators still refused to leave after temporary suspension, the vast majority of students would probably demand a court injunction and ultimately police action, with police accompanied by officers of the University.
Along with the soft line approach, certain commonsense measures could be taken. Bowie should have locked the door of the seminar room where the Visiting Committee was meeting. And the CRR chairman should have checked informally to determine how solid a case Bowie was lining up. Seeing that Bowie's case was made up mostly of uninformative photographs, the CRR chairman could have told Bowie his evidence was much too weak and could have dismissed the charges immediately, without scheduling hearings.