A Review of the Year Five Issues That Divided The University
Harvard University in the past year found itself in the throes of an identity crisis. Defining what a University should be and how it should serve the community underly the controversies which split Harvard apart and threatened its very existence.
Traditionally a University has been an institution devoted to the teaching and gathering of knowledge. Traditionally the University has been a structure removed from the main currents of the nation. Aloofness was considered a crucial prerequisite to scholarly pursuits. Yet since World War II the University has changed radically. It is now dependent on the Federal government for over one third of its income. It now serves that government through specific research carried out under the direction of governmental departments. More than that, the expansion of Harvard into a billion dollar corporation with investments in key American corporations and land holdings in Cambridge, has meant that Harvard has had to face problems traditionally considered to be outside the province of universities.
Whether Harvard likes it or not it is deeply entrenched in the American society. The nature of the education it provides for its students can have a profound effect on the long range future of the nation. In addition the decisions it makes as a University and a corporation with regard to specific issues can go a long way towards determining the more immediate future of the country.
Universities today are the focus of national attention. Campus disorders, attacks by Spiro Agnew, the peace movement, and the campaigns of men like Ronald Reagan are indications of just how much university activity is key to the political drift of America.
On the campus, radicals accuse the University of being the lackey of a corrupt, imperialist, racist society. They demand a cessation of those practices which they consider to be key to maintaining such a society. They ask the University to take the lead in remaking that society. The administration counters with the argument that it is not proper for a university to become involved in politics. They see a university as a free area where any ideas are welcome and all are free to partake of in intellectual pursuits. They see the radical demands and tactics as a threat to this "free environment."
At Harvard this controversy has surfaced in several specific conflicts. How those issues will be resolved and what they will mean in terms of the larger controversy will determine the fates of Harvard, and the country as a whole.
This year at Harvard five main issues have divided the University. To a large extent the same forces have lined up against each other in each controversy-most of the student body and a minority of professors against the Administration and another faction of the Faculty. Caught in the middle are the apolitical Faculty and students.
The five issues are: The University's relation to the government; the University practices with regard to employment of minority groups; policies of the University as a corporation; discipline of students; and the relationship of Harvard to politics-specifically the peace movement.
In addition, two long range issues threaten to be the source of conflict in the years to come: reform of the structure by which Harvard is governed; reform of the curriculum.
The University and the Government
In its relations with the government, Harvard is caught in a squeeze. On the one hand the government, leery of aid to education and anxious to suppress student radicals, has acted on a series of measures which would cut off funds to colleges which have a history of radical activities on campus. On the other hand the radicals are demanding an end to many of these same government grants on the grounds that they serve the war effort.
The most serious measure passed so far by the government is the Mansfield amendment which cut off all funds granted by the defense department to colleges "unless they have a direct bearing to the military." The Mansfield measure was a liberal one, designed to curb defense department influence. Yet conservatives in Congress have been active too. The strongest measures proposed would cut off funds to all colleges at which "there is a substantial disruption of the administration, or where professors or officials are prevented from pursuing their studies or duties."
President Pusey's answer to conservative critics in Congress came last spring when he testified before a House subcommittee investigating student disorders. He told them that universities should be left to handle disorders themselves and that Congress should not interfere.
Yet since Pusey made that statement disorders at Harvard have increased. This year saw attacks by radicals on the Center for International Affairs, on ROTC, which the Faculty voted to abolish last year but which lingers on while being phased out; and on the Cambridge Project, a planned program by which Harvard and M.I.T. would join to do research for the defense department.
The year began with a violent attack by the Weathermen on the CFIA. On September 25 a group of about 25 persons, none of them Harvard students, invaded the Center, roughed up staff members and employees, and fled after fifteen minutes. Because the attack came so early in the year many people were uncertain about just who the Weathermen were and how strong they were. University officials braced for a violent year. The Weathermen, of course, are a tiny splinter group of SDS and have not reappeared at Harvard since the CFIA action. But the issue of CFIA remains.
The CFIA is primarily funded by the Ford Foundation. The Faculty members and research associates affiliated with the Center work on a variety of projects, including economic development, arms control, and studies of underdeveloped countries. Radicals claim that the research is then used by the government to suppress liberation movements around the world. CFIA associates say that their research is all public information and can be used by anyone.
On April 9 a demonstration disrupted a meeting of the CFIA visiting committee and resulted in the punishment of 18 students, two of whom were ordered to leave the college.
The ROTC issue, which was the main cause of last spring's disorder, has been more muted this year. Yet ROTC remains on campus, if only temporarily, and on May 5 an SDS led march (with the rumored purpose of burning the ROTC building to the ground) was stopped by a group of moderate students who surrounded the building and persuaded the marchers to stop and talk about the issues.
ROTC will leave Harvard by the end of next year, but as long as it remains it will be a sore point and an open target for radicals. It is the most visible symbol of government presence on campus and the most available target for demonstrations against the military.
The Cambridge Project controversy ended in at least a technical victory for the radicals. The Project, funded by the defense department, was designed to use computers for basic research into social science methodology. Radicals charged that the product of the computer research would be used for counter-insurgency operations. Liberal members of the Faculty joined the protest. John Womack Jr., assistant professor of History, said, "I suspect that the people getting the most use out of the Project will be the Defense Department, and at this moment in American politics, I don't trust Defense to make the use of it that I would like."
In a surprising move the committee set up to study the Project agreed to compromise its initial position that an alliance would be worthwhile. Instead they agreed just before the Faculty was to have voted on the question, to reject a formal alliance with the Cambridge Project and instead permit individual professors to work for it if they chose.
The University as a Major Corporation
Harvard is a billion dollar corporation. Its investments are handled by the University treasurer, George Bennett, subject only to the approval of the Corporation. This year Bennett's handling of the University's vast investments came under attack on two fronts.
The biggest battle over Harvard's investment policy concerned the attempt of a group of Washington, D.C. lawyers led by Ralph Nader to make the General Motors Corporation more responsive to the needs of the consumer and the public. The group, which called itself "Campaign to Make General Motors Responsible" proposed three major changes in the operation of the giant automobile company:
Enlarge GM's Board of Directors from 24 to 27 seats, adding three representatives of the public. The group's candidates were Betty Furness, President Johnson's special assistant for consumer affairs; Rene Dubos, a University of Chicago biologist and environmentalist; and the Rev. Channing Phillips, a civil rights leader in Washington, D.C.
Change the GM charter to restrict the corporation to operations which are not "detrimental to the health, safety, or welfare of the citizens of the United States."
Set up a "shareholder's committee to study GM's impact on the country, including an assessment of its efforts to produce pollution-free engines and safe cars, its effect on na-itonal transportation policy, and in general the manner in which it handles its economic power."
In response to student and Faculty pressure to vote Harvard's $22. million worth of GM stock shares with Campaign GM, Bennett said, "I only do as treasurer what is in the best interest of Harvard-and that means the students, alumni, and Faculty.
"We're not easily shaken in our convictions as to what makes a good management by groups which may not have the same motivation that we have."
In the months before it came time for Harvard to make its decision on GM, the corporation asked for and received advice from all groups associated with the University. By May 1, three fourths of their correspondence supported the Nader group. The statements of support included a Faculty resolution, an alumai poll, a student petition with more than 1500 names, a law brief from the Harvard Environmental Law Society, and letters from Mayor White and Senator Edward M. Kennedy '54.
Yet Bennett affirmed his resolve to support the GM management. On May 18 the Corporation made its announcement: "All but a handful of the communications consist of a recommendation unsupported by consideration of what seem to us to be difficult issues raised by the resolutions. We believe that these issues can best be resolved not by a head count of supporters and opponents, but by thoughtful consideration of the means proposed to effect changes most of us desire."
In voting to support the GM management, the Corporation openly flaunted the overwhelming opinion of students, Faculty, and alumni.
The GM issue was not the only controversy in which Harvard Treasurer Bennett revealed his view of how Harvard should handle its investments. Harvard's tenth largest investment sum is placed in stock of Middle South Utilities, one of whose subsidiaries, Mississippi Power and Light, employs only 4.5 per cent black employees in an area where 50 per cent of the population is black. Investigations of two other Middle South subsidiaries-Arkansas Power and Light and Louisiana Power and Light-conducted by the Equal Opportunity Commission, revealed similar employment practices. One EEOC official said, in releasing the employment figures, "it is difficult for us to avoid the conclusion that the companies are guilty of severe discrimination against Negro employees."
Student critics of the Middle South investment asked not that Harvard sell its stock but that it use its prestige to change the policies of the company. Bennett sits on the Board of Directors of Middle South and Harvard owns five per cent of the company's stock. Yet the response of Harvard financial experts was to label the EEOC employment figures "a one-sided smear attack."
Investment policies have never been among the hotter issues at Harvard. Yet they are issues which can best unite radical and liberal students. Faculty, and alumni against the administration. This year saw an increased criticism of Harvard's investments. Next year could bring more criticism and more anger from a united left.
Harvard as an Employer
Among the most complex issues which have divided the University this year is the question of employment practices. Harvard has a rather spotty record on the hiring of minority groups. In April 1969, blacks made up 6.7 per cent of the Harvard work force. This was a jump from 5.2 per cent of a year earlier. But the figure did not include the Faculty, which is overwhelmingly white, and a breakdown of the jobs held by blacks revealed that most Harvard black employees were either in clerical positions or on maintenance crews.
Harvard has been trying for several years to improve its minority hiring program. One of the plans it set up with this end in mind was the so-called "painters helper" program. Under this system Harvard hired blacks as painters' helpers in order to give them on-the-job training to become painters. Painters' helpers received a lower wage than painters.
In a Fall campaign which culminated in the occupation of Dean May's office on November 20, SDS charged that the painters' helpers program was an example of subtle racism in the University. They said that many of the painters' helpers were in fact experienced painters and demanded that all painters' helpers be promoted to painters immediately.
The University responded by saying that it would investigate the problem. Sixteen students were required to leave the University for their part in the November 20 demonstration.
SDS is predominantly white, and for most of the Fall few blacks took part in demonstrations concerning the painters' helpers. On December 5, however, the Harvard Organization for Black Unity (OBU) seized University Hall. They issued three demands:
That Harvard raise the wages of all painters' helpers to those of painters and abolish the painters' helper category;
That 20 per cent of all workers employed at present and future construction sites be black or third world;
And that a mechanism be established to provide for a compliance officer to supervise those sites.
The 175 OBU members left University Hall after Administration spokesman Archibald Cox, professor of Law, agreed to negotiate the demands. Negotiations broke down six days later, chiefly because of disagreement over the 20 per cent figure. The administration charged that the figure was too high and that it did not correspond to the percentage of black workers in the Boston area as indicated by the 1960 census. OBU said that the 1960 figure was out of date, and that black and third world people constituted actually more than 20 per cent of the Boston population.
On December 11, OBU seized University Hall for the second time. The University first announced that the 91 blacks in the Hall were suspended and then obtained a court injunction against the demonstration. The blacks left the building at 4:45 p.m. after holding it for more than five hours.
Three developments cooled the situation in the following weeks. A new contract with the painters was negotiated which provided a mechanism for promoting the helpers. It did not, however, provide for immediate or automatic promotion.
In addition, the University appointed Clifford Alexander '54, former chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, to form a comprehensive minority hiring program for the University. Two new building contracts which the University signed on February 9, one for Gunman Library at the Education School and the other for an extension of Paine Hall, provided for the hiring of between 19 and 23 per cent black workers.
OBU's gains were not without costs, however; 45 OBU members received punishments ranging from one year suspensions to warnings. Philip N Lee, a third year Law student and head of OBU, was placed on probationary status until his graduation.
Harvard handled the conflict with OBU largely as a labor matter. President Pusey appointed Cox, an expert in labor management negotiations, to handle the talks with OBU. The agreement which was reached was a compromise, but it marks a considerable stride forward in Harvard's hiring practices. Yet the punishments meted out to the black students leaves a wide area of mistrust and bad feeling between blacks and the administration. This area of mistrust could result in new takeovers next year, for blacks feel they cannot trust a University which acceeds to a large extent to their demands and then punishes them for militant, yet non-violent tactics which won these demands.
Discipline in the University
Shortly after the disciplining of 138 University Hall occupiers last June, the Faculty voted approval of the Committee on Rights and Responsibilities and delegated virtually all disciplinary authority to it. The CRR was modeled closely after the Committee of Fifteen, a student-Faculty committee which meted out the first punishments. But the CRR-unlike the earlier disciplinary committee-was enabled to act with summary power, and thus lost much of the acceptance it might have gained if it had been more responsive to, and representative of, all members of the University.
During the Fall semester, the CRR acted on 65 cases of alleged student misconduct, and its punishments were harsh. The committee ordered 16 students to leave the University, two of whom could not return without a majority vote of the Faculty approving their readmission. Most of the rest were given stiff warnings and told that they too would be made to leave if they participated in another disruption.
As the year progressed, it became increasingly evident that the CRR was punishing only those students who appeared at political demonstrations-despite the committee's mandate to deal with all forms of discipline-and that it was willing to ignore those instances of administrative negligence which were characterized by official unresponsiveness to petitions, peaceful picketing, and other forms of "acceptable" protest.
And the CRR was becoming extremely unpopular among students and Faculty for precisely this reason. One undergraduate House and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences each refused to elect representatives to the committee. The Astronomy Department, voting in an official department meeting, censured the committee for its pro-administration bias. "Irresponsible acts on the part of [the] administration have, in our opinion, contributed substantially to the growing disaffection of students and its more active manifestations," their resolution stated.
But when the proposal for a permanent CRR came before the Faculty, it was not adopted until all passages in the resolution defining administrative responsibility were deleted. And this spring, as the CRR punished almost 100 more students, requiring 15 of them to leave, it ruled that student demonstrators did not have to be warned that their actions were illegal in order to be prosecuted for them. In a situation where peaceful demonstrations could easily erupt into violence, the effect of this latest ruling was to scare students out of political activity and stifle legitimate dissent.
The CRR, by Faculty vote, is now a permanent institution at Harvard, but it will almost certainly have to reform its procedures and past practices in order to gain the approval of any sizable segment of the Harvard community.
Harvard and the War
This year saw three major political demonstrations of dissent from the President's war policy. The reaction of Harvard's administration and Faculty to those demonstrations changed radically. They changed at all was a prime reason that the University did not meet the fate of Kent State or Ohio State. Whether they will continue to change will determine the course of Harvard's future.
The first demonstration, the October 15 Moratorium, was the occasion for a dramatic reversal of long standing Faculty policy against taking political stands. At a confused and bizarre meeting the Faculty first voted down a motion supporting the Moratorium-apparently because the Moratorium was too political an issue-and then it turned around and approved by a vote of 255-81 a motion calling for a speedy, withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam-a highly political decision.
The two votes marked a turning point in Harvard history. Ending the era of the myth of the ivory tower university, the Faculty at last realized that Harvard is not separate from the rest of the country, but that national issues were a proper, and indeed necessary, area of concern for the Harvard Faculty.
On October 15, however, President Pusey was not ready to take that step. He issued a statement which said "Though the war and the tactics for settling it are quite properly subjects of individual concern or group concern and action, they are not, in my view, matters on which the University as a corporate body should take a policy position.
"That the University should not express views on political issues-a point which has been much argued over the years-is the principle of chief concern to me. I feel strongly that the long range health of this and other universities depends on observing it."
Pusey refused to acknowledge the demonstration's objective of a moratorium on business as usual and denied a request to close the University for the day. He refused to add his name to a statement signed by 79 other University Presidents, including Mrs. Bunting, which expressed opposition to the war. As Nixon spent the day ignoring the protest, so did Pusey. Each President spent the day working in his office on matters not connected with the war.
Thousands of Harvard students were among the 500,000 people who marched in Washington on November 15. It was the largest anti-war demonstration in the nation's history, yet again the President of Harvard remained silent.
It took the events of the first week of May to jar Pusey cut of his position and make him turn the corner that the Faculty had rounded on October 15. Following President Nixon's decision to invade Cambodia and the deaths of the students at Kent State, Pusey issued a statement in which he said, "I urge all officers of the University, while not neglecting their responsibilities toward the work of the University, to make every effort to accommodate interruptions in our normal procedures which may be occasioned in the next few days by acts of conscience relating to our country's involvement in the war in Southeast Asia."
As usual, Pusey was far behind the students and the Faculty. 2700 people had voted two days before Pusey's statement to put the University on strike, joining over 300 other schools around the country. The Faculty voted optional pass-fail and credit grades on courses to free students for political work. Then both students and Faculty went to Washington to bombard theirCongressmen with pleas to end the war. Pusey had to wait for an invitation from Nixon to go to the capital, but when it came he too went to "present explicitly our assessment of the desires, frustrations, and anger among students and Faculty across the nation-reactions that result from developments in Southeast Asia, hostile comments by members of the Administration about campus events and persons, and the tragic incidents that have occurred on several campuses."
Pusey is not a man of bold action. The Faculty is not geared to make quick decisions based on political events. Yet the events of this year taught them that they must learn how to be bold and outspoken if they are to retain any shred of respect that students might still hold for them.
On October 17, the Fainsod Committee released a report on decision-making at Harvard and the role students should play in it. The Committee-chaired by Merle Fainsod, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor, began meeting in February 1969 after the Faculty set it up in the wake of the ROTC sit-in at Paine Hall.
The report made two major reform recommendations, designed to streamline Faculty decision-making and to give students a larger voice in regulating their affairs outside the classroom: It recommended:
The setting up of a 20-man Faculty Council to act as "a combined dean's cabinet and steering committee of the Faculty;
The establishment of three student-Faculty committees on which students would have full voting power. These were the Committee on Houses and Undergraduate Life, to deal with regulations for students and procedures for dealing with infractions of these regulations; the Committee on Undergraduate Education, to consider ways in which the quality of education at Harvard could be improved: and the Committee on Students and Community Relations, to consider subjects of concern to students with regard to the relations between the University and the community.
The Faculty adopted, with only minor changes, all of the Fainsod Committee recommendations. The student-Faculty committees have been created and are beginning to deal with the problems in their areas.
The Faculty Council, which was designed to streamline and shorten Faculty meetings, has had less than complete success. In a Faculty as large as Harvard's it is difficult to consider major issues with even minimal comprehensiveness. Criticism of the Faculty for confusion and chaotic procedures came after the meetings held last spring in the wake of the April University Hall takeover. Yet the new form of government seems to be having its own difficulties. While votes are taken more quickly and debate is shortened, charges of railroading and fixed agendas are more common.
Last year the Faculty met twice on the ROTC issue; first it voted to make it an extracurricular activity and then it voted that what it had meant at the first meeting was that ROTC should be abolished. This spring he Faculty went through a similar experience. After the student vote to strike in the wake of President Nixon's Cambodian invasion, the Faculty voted to permit students to put off work until the Fall to permit them to engage in political activity. It met a week later and changed its mind, voting a system of optional pass-fail or credit grades for courses.
Perhaps more important than the structural reforms which took place as a result of the Fainsod Report are the changes which are taking place in University personnel. Since last June two of the top Administration officials have resigned, Dean Ford and Dean Glimp. Their posts were filled by Pusey with men known for their ability to take stress and for their strong ideals. Dean May and Dean Dunlop, however, will very likely at least offer to resign when Pusey's successor is chosen.
The President carries a great deal of prestige with the Faculty, and he presides at Faculty meetings. A strong President, with some sense of political acumen, could exercise a far greater role in the Faculty decisions than did Pusey. What kind of man will follow Pusey into the presidency will determine the fate of the University for years to come.
In proposing the first major reexamination of Harvard undergraduate education in 25 years, Dean May on December 1 opened a pandora's box of problems and opportunities. He requested recommendations from all groups at the college-Faculty, departments, Houses, committees-for revising the curriculum. Some of the problems on which may asked for proposals were:
What is the role of General Education? Given the increase in General Education in secondary schools, should Harvard insist on Gen Ed courses or simply return to distribution requirements?
Are non-honors concentrations worthwhile or should students be allowed to "concentrate" in General Education?
Should Harvard change from a basically liberal arts college to include specialized and vocational education?
Should Harvard be a four year experience, or can the residency requirement be more flexible?
What is the relationship of academics to political problems?
What is the role of research in the University?
Given the financial limitations of the University, how should priorities be determined?
These are exciting questions. Their answers could radically change the nature of Harvard education. In addition May said, "I expect this study to have an impact on American education and higher education everywhere."
Yet the forces opposing the success of May's venture are imposing. The study did not originate with a Faculty directive, but came from May personally. Thus, after it is completed and proposals have been determined, May must lobby with the Faculty for them. It is more difficult to persuade the Faculty to adopt the proposals of a study it did not sanction than the proposals of a Faculty-created committee, such as the Fainsod Committee.
The variety of the issues to be discussed may lead to a chaotic hodgepodge of half steps-manifested in a general report that comments on Harvard Education but makes no specific proposals or a series of specific, but conflicting proposals.
Yet the wheels have started turning. Proposals are being made and discussed. For better or worse, Dean May's action has sorted the mechanism which could determine the nature of Harvard undergraduate education for years to come.
These are the issues which have divided the University this year and will continue to divide her for years to come. It has been a long and confused year, and out of the conflict have come some far-reaching changes. Harvard has shifted as much this year as in any other year in her history. Yet whether she has shifted fast enough or in the right direction remains to be seen.
This is an era of rapid change. Whether Harvard can resolve her conflicts and redefine herself quickly enough to keep pace with the country and the world is the question which will determine whether or not she will be able to continue to exist.