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.