The Kingdom and the Power The Story Behind the New Look Of the Harvard Faculty
"I've seen the workings of the Daley political machine. I've seen the corruption of urban police departments. But nothing can compare with the filth of faculty politics."
HARVARD Faculty meetings used to be cordial, rather intimate affairs a few years ago. Convened beneath the portraits and statuettes of the tiny Faculty room in University Hall, the meetings began after a short tea and cookie session for early arrivals. An ornate chime clock hung at the side of the room and, on striking the magical hour of 6 p.m., called down the President's gavel on whoever happened to be speaking and brought an immediate adjournment.
Sometime in the last two years, things changed. Meetings became more urgent and more frequent. The Faculty shifted over to Sanders Theatre. The clock was left behind. And at least a few professors are sorry it was.
"I'm tempted to say the old meetings were lovely," H. Stuart Hughes, Gurney Professor of History and Political Science, said last week. "They had the air of a gentleman's club, whereas now it's more like a parliament."
Accounts of how the Faculty changed must take into consideration the Kennedy-era integration of the University into national political life-the "Collapse of the Ivory Tower" theory, as early sixties educational commentators called it. After scores of Harvard administrators went to Washington to work under the Kennedy administration, many began filtering back to the University in the late sixties.
But the Harvard community these Washington emigres were coming back to was, by 1968, more diffuse than the one they had left. Just as the professors had become more politically involved, the students-without leaving the campus-were equally, if not more, involved.
The traditional dichotomy between scholarly endeavors and "extra-curricular" activities was breaking down. The puppy dog student government that arranged mixers and fought for parietal liberalization was becoming more political as students joined SDS rather than the Young Dems. The War had come to Harvard. And the Dow incident in the Fall of '67 turned student anti-war rage in on the University itself.
The Faculty-because it was the most visible part of the University structure-naturally found itself in the middle of the controversy. And the Student-Faculty Advisory Council (SFAC), created in the wake of the Dow demonstration, evinced the first cracks in the old Faculty way.
UNTIL '68, the Faculty had always worked through a staid committee system. As problems arose, the solution invariably fell to an appointed committee, chaired by one of the prominent senior professors on the Faculty. The committee deliberated from nine months to two years. And the result invariably was an impeccably argued report on the problem, suggesting several means to its solution.
In a time of complacency, the system worked well. Such names as John T. Dunlop, David A. Wells Professor of Political Economy; Henry Rosovsky, professor of Economics; Robert L. Wolff, Coolidge Professor of History; and Merle Fainsod, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor, appeared on the most recent of these committees in 1968 and 1969.
The Dunlop Committee on Recruitment and Retention of Faculty met leisurely for over a year. And in a time when Faculty news meant committee news, it is interesting to note that the CRIMSON devoted its entire front page, editorial page, and features page to the Committee report the morning after it appeared. Today this would not happen: partially because of a change in the CRIMSON, more probably because of a greater change in the structure of the Faculty.
"Before, there were a limited number of committees with a limited number of professors on them. These were usually the 'eminences' of the Faculty. There were a group of ins and a group of outs-the ins being close friends of the Dean," one of the younger Faculty members complained. "Before, you would get a docket and that was the first inkling you had of what was being voted on at the next Faculty meeting."
Such resentment to faculty committees among younger faculty members remained cautiously below the surface refore 1968. But the changes wrought by the eventual report of the Dunlop Committee made it easier for the "young turks" to voice their disagreement. In one swoop, the Faculty expanded from 500 to 700 members when the title of instructor was changed to assistant professor and 200 junior faculty members were enfranchised at Faculty meetings.
The SFAC, although now defunct, served two purposes in its brief Faculty history. It existed as a reminder of the gap between student and Faculty thinking. It functioned as a forum where students and professors could publicly assess the Faculty shortcomings.
SFAC drew the public eye on the Faculty and surfaced people for committee posts who had otherwise been left out. Men like Rogers Albritton, professor of Philosophy, and Everett I. Mendelsohn, professor of the History of Science-Faculty liberals who shared great rapport with their students-had been on the Faculty for 19 and 11 years respectively, and never been appointed to major committee positions.
SFAC also reversed the order of Faculty deliberations. After debating issues, the Council was given the unprecedented right to bring student resolutions to the floor of the Faculty via Faculty SFAC members. This, more than anything else, upset the tradition-minded professors. There was no opportunity to take these resolutions and push them off into a 10-month study committee. To do so was tantamount to hypocrisy, not only in the eyes of students (who had after all come to expect this kind of paternalistic response) but also in the eyes of SFAC Faculty members who could not be so easily dismissed.
The trouble was not that there were students involved, Arthur Maass, Frank G. Thompson Professor of Government and later head of the Faculty's conservative caucus, explained. Professors were upset because SFAC was not properly integrated into the structure.
SFAC and the growing politicization of students in the Fall of '68 contributed to a feeling among many professors that the University was "falling apart." The focus of college political life turned completely on SFAC. Buoyed by its own newness and sense of self-importance, the Council was now swinging through issues like a full-fledged Congressional investigating committee. The SFAC held hearings, both open and closed, invited University personnel to "testify," then grilled them with questions.
At the time, SFAC had a little glamor for everyone: for student politicos, a straight student power victory; for radicals, a way to bring political issues to prominence; for liberal professors, a way of budging fellow colleagues; for conservatives, a Holy Terror worthy of a Holy crusade to stop it.
HENCE the beginning of the one thing that completely shattered the quiescent Faculty structure-the formation of the liberal and conservative caucuses.
A small group of senior Faculty members, led by the late Robert J. McCloskey, professor of Government, and including Wolff and Oscar Handlin, Charles Warren Professor of American History, began meeting informally in September. In January, after students sat in at the Paine Hall Faculty meeting, the professors agreed the Faculty was in a crisis situation and the caucus began meeting formally.
Composed of 45 to 50 senior Faculty members primarily from the Social Sciences, the caucus drafted its first piece of Faculty legislation-the resolution forming the Fainsod Committee on Restructuring.
Members of the caucus were united by several mutual concerns: Faculty meetings had gotten immensely larger, growing from an average of 200 persons per meeting to 400, and the influx was mainly of junior members. Order and structure were breaking down, the professors felt. People were demanding a Faculty steering committee and even students on Faculty committees. In addition, and perhaps most alarming to them, some professors, particularly Hilary Putnam, professor of Philosophy and the Faculty's lone wolf member of SDS, were making unheard-of demands on political issues, like the War and racism at Harvard.
Many of these senior Faculty members were stunned by the rapidly changing events and repulsed at what they considered the crosion of that "academic freedom" which had brought many of them to Harvard during the fifties.
OUTLINING his personal reasons for concern, Maass is a good example of the kind of professors who attended those first conservative meetings. He is both a Democrat and in national politics a liberal, he proudly points out, a former New Dealer whose office contains only two mementoes on the wall-a picture of John F. Kennedy '40 at his inauguration and the notorious Chicago Tribune front page which heralded "Dewey Defeats Truman" in November 1948.
A shirt-sleeves government office type, Maass scorns the "old school ties" that many associate with the conservative caucus. He did not graduate from the college and his reasons for coming here illustrate those things at Harvard which conservatives believed were being threatened:
1) The climate of academic freedom has been Harvard's foremost feature, Maass said last week. When he started teaching here in 1949, Harvard was the freest University in the country for doing scholarly work and teaching.
2) Although his research rarely required large sums of money, Maass believes Harvard provides a rare opportunity for professors who need money. Among the Faculty, there was a genuine confidence that if funds were needed, the Deans could find them.
3) "What's true at Harvard is that the Faculty has all power to itself in matters relating to scholarship and instruction, the President practically none," Maass said. Hence there is no administration to interfere with a professor's work. One of the most disconcerting charges of the strike last year, he added, was the claim that the administration was not doing what the Faculty wanted. "There is no administration, as you might think of it at a state school," he said. "Pusey has no provost or chancellor. There's Bentinck-Smith and a few others to help the President get things done, but little more than that."
4) Standards for Faculty members have been high across the board. There has been little fear of interference from one department in another's affairs.
5) Standards for the admission of students were also very high and the caliber of undergraduate education went unquestioned. "People on independent study really did scholarly work. They didn't go down and organize rent strikes, then try to get credit for it," he said wryly.
6) Finally, and most important, Maass notes that demands on Faculty independence have until recently been minimal. "When we signed up to be members of the Faculty we agreed to abide by the common rules set up to administer the college-practical things like dates for reporting grades and finals. We did not agree to abide by majority rule on political issues-racism, militarism, or the Vietnam War. It came completely, out of the blue when we were asked to debate these things on the floor of the Faculty," he said.
THE LIBERAL caucus did not officially form until several months later, the day after police cleared students from University Hall last Spring. Composed of a more even mix of junior and senior Faculty members, and professors from the humanities and natural sciences, the liberals gathered not to defend the institution, but to give direction to the inevitable changes they believed must come.
The caucus formed, Martin H. Peretz, assistant professor of Social Studies said, because "a large number of Faculty members shared with the students the belief that the world is impinging on the University in many ways as never before and therefore it is somewhat impossible to go on with business as usual."
A loose coalition of anti-war professors, the liberals suffered from divided intentions-they were both liberals on a nationwide scale and liberals within the University, but there had never been a definition of the latter label.
Included in the group were most of the junior Faculty members who wanted to increase their voice in the Faculty, and senior Faculty who had been consistently left out of Faculty decision-making.
One of the long-range objectives of the caucus was to bring representative democracy to the autocratic Faculty structure. But in the short-range, the objectives were specifically to enforce the "no contracts" ROTC decision of the Faculty and bring a semblance of impartiality to the punishment of students arrested for taking over University Hall.
"I think that both the liberal and conservative caucuses like to think of the Faculty as a senate," one liberal caucus leader quipped. "The difference between us is that they think it's the Roman senate."
Even before the caucuses began to control the Faculty in the Spring of 1969, the lines between them had been drawn on small issues. The day afterstudents sat in at Paine Hall, the Dean of the Faculty asked for a vote of confidence. The Faculty, restless and disturbed that this kind of disturbance was possible, tabled the motion. "That was the beginning of a revolution." one professor said. Very soon afterward, the conservative caucus met officially.
In January, when the time came to punish the Paine Hall demonstrators, the Faculty was faced with another unprecedented situation: the Ad Board reported back with an 8-7 recommendation on discipline and the Faculty was asked to review individual cases. "What kind of decision is that?" a conservative exclaimed. "The Faculty is the least equipped body to review individual discipline decisions."
The Faculty had always operated by consensus, but in the Spring of '69 the consensus was breaking down.
The debate over extending the experimental Social Relations 148-149 that Spring also cut directly into one of the Faculty's most sacred cows-departmental autonomy. The course was not only radically oriented, but by Harvard standards, radically structured, violating all academic standards that most conservatives had come to believe meant a Harvard education.
"We tore ourselves to bits over whether it might be necessary to interfere with that." Maass said. Conservatives were being forced to set priorities-departmental autonomy versus "academic excellence"-and the conflict did not help Faculty member relations.
WHAT divided the caucuses more than politics, however, were differences in temperament and style.
"We're not conservative and they're not liberal." Maass strongly protested last week. "We have lots of 'liberals' in our group, and they have many radicals. I would like to think of us as responsible and some of them as irresponsible. That's not entirely true, but it's as fair as them calling us conservatives. The best thing is to just call the caucuses the blues and the whites."
While perhaps not politically conservative, the conservative caucus does tend to be the more staid, traditional professors. The group includes most of the Faculty bachelors, for instance, and the caucus reflects their characteristics-self-sufficient, nervous, more secretive than the liberals, less willing to take risks.
The liberals, on the other hand, include the younger married professors, whose personal lives tend to be more risque and open. Where the conservatives are prone to vote as a bloc on major issues, the liberals are much more loosely organized and highly independent. The nominal liberal caucus leader. Michael Walzer, professor of Government has often split with his liberal colleagues to vote against caucus-backed proposals.
Another difference in temperament can be seen in the relationship of liberal and conservative members to the University. Stated by a conservative, the difference is that "when we operate in the University we have as our dominant loyalty the University. The others have a different dominant loyalty they are trying to impose on the Faculty.
A liberal described the difference this way: liberal professors are more active outside the University. Their psychological lives are not dependent on the success of that University (as are the conservatives) and their position as Harvard Faculty members is only part of their lives.
WITH the schism between Faculty members widening, the growth of the caucuses during the Spring crisis seems not only logical but necessary. By taking over University Hall last Spring, SDS had forced the Faculty hand on ROTC. By calling in the police, Pusey forced the issue of Faculty power. White conservatives pooh-poohed the existence of an administration separate from the Faculty, President Pusey and his Council of Deans had shown it not only existed but could act powerfully and autonomously.
The students and the administration had been the major protagonists in the Strike, but both were looking to the Faculty for its resolution. "At the time, there was nothing else." Hughes said of the caucuses. "The Faculty was not, used to having big issues thrown at it and there was a lot of confusion within it. The caucuses where the only bodies in which professors could coalesce."
The Strike was a moment of both crisis and opportunity. (The two crisscross irrevocably in recent Faculty history.) The restlessness of student moderates and liberals, the Old Mole's publication of the inflammatory "Dear Nate" secret memos taken from Dean Ford's files, and the rifling of University Hall files instilled helplessness, anger, and fear in the Faculty.
Two days after the Wednesday building takeover, caucus politics came up with its first victory. While hundreds of Faculty members apprehensively waited for someone to act the leaders of the conservative and liberal caucuses met and coolly negotiated a resolution responding to the events of the last two days.
Several resolutions were before the Faculty. A conservative response, written by George B. Kistiakowsky. Abbott and James Lawrence Professor of Chemistry, severely criticized the student takeover, calling it "the overriding moral issue." The liberal resolution, written by Wassily W. Leontief, Henry Lee Professor of Economics, emphasized the illegitimacy of the President's decision, and urged the Faculty to set up an independent Faculty committee-the Committee of 15-to report on the causes of the takeover and punish demonstrators. The two resolutions were combined, with the "overriding moral issue" clause dropped.
Faculty meetings came at a rate of one every two days during the strike. And through each, the polarization and strength of the caucuses in the Faculty grew. By the end of the first week, leaders of the caucuses were not only negotiating, but lobbying by phone for votes and lining up respected "independents"-distributed over the departments to touch all bases-to second their resolutions.
In such a fashion, the Faculty worked its way through two "no confidence" votes in President Pusey, two ROTC resolutions, several Harvard housing proposals, two scholarship proposals, and several points on the implementation of the Committee of 15-all in the span of two weeks. Of the major strike votes, only the Afro-American Studies resolutions did not come from caucus negotiations.
The caucuses emerged from the April crisis as the stabilizing force in the Faculty-charting its course through unknown waters. At the same time, however, the caucuses had smashed the last vestiges of cordiality and informality in Faculty meetings. "During the strike, meetings were nasty, threatening affairs," one professor said. "Professors did things you never would have expected before."
Noted Faculty professors like Henry Rosovky, who basked in the national attention that his work toward a Black Studies program brought, resigned from the Black Studies committee after black students ripped apart his proposals. Old friends whose offices in the Public Administration building were on the same floor walked stone-faced past one another on their way to their separate caucus meetings.
WHEN classes began again this Fall, both caucuses expected to continue holding weekly meetings. In the absence of a crisis atmosphere, however, the enthusiasm for Faculty politics waned.
Unlike the U.S. Senate-which had given the caucuses a two-party model-the caucuses had no "party discipline." Caucus leaders could not level political clouts on members to bring them into line. Patronage at Harvard is minimal. Presidential pressure would be an indignity. And what Harvard has of a seniority system is organized through academic departments.
The cleavages between liberal and conservative Faculty members were also different this year. Confronted by such issues as curriculum reform, women's rights, and the implementation of the Rights and Responsibilities resolution, the liberal caucus was no longer united by its anti-war leftism. The issues this year were distinctly internal issues.
This Fall, the liberals had to face the dichotomy which the hurried events of the Spring had obscured: how liberal unity on national issues could be translated into unity on internal political issues.
The Fainsod Committee Report on Faculty Restructuring was a natural battle ground. The committee was established to study the same problems that had led to the caucus's formation: the autocratic power of Faculty deans, student representation, the breakdown of the old committee structure.
The Fainsod Committee was also the last prestigious Faculty committee appointed under the old system and was headed by the most eminent of the "Grey Eminences."
The committee reported finally in late October, after circulating three drafts of its proposals around in Faculty circles (another unprecedented move). And the liberals proceeded to carve up the report until little was left of the original proposals.
By creating the Committee on Rights and Responsibilities, liberals had established the principles of student representation and election of Faculty members. In the Faculty debate, Fainsod proposals were expanded to solidly entrench these. The Faculty Council-a combination House Rules Committee and Dean's Cabinet-was to be elected on an elaborate Proportional Representation plan which not only recognized democratic Faculty voting, but representation according to fields and departments.
After fighting so hard for a liberal Faculty restructuring, the liberals lost the December and May elections. "We won the war, but lost the battle." one liberal commented. "Had we allowed the Dean to appoint the Council we would have done better because he would have had to guess at our strength." another said.
The results of the Fall Faculty meetings gave rise to what is now known as the Womack Rule of Faculty ulty politics. (The rule, named after John Womack Jr., professor of History, is an informal measure of the predictability of Faculty votes.) In small Faculty meetings (less than 200 members), conservatives usually win because only the mildly-interested Faculty show up. In medium-sized Faculty meetings (250-350), liberals generally win because the junior Faculty show up. And in large meetings or on mailed ballots which go out to all 700 Faculty members, conservatives win overwhelmingly because the real "back-bench" traditionalists are voting.
(This rule points up another obscure, but actual Faculty corollary, passed last January, called the Bergson Rule. The Bergson Rule, named after Abram Bergson, professor of Economics, says that if any proposal is passed at a Faculty meeting attended by less than a third of the Faculty, the next meeting has a right to over-rule the motion. This tidbit is mentioned only to show how absurdly formalistic the Faculty has now become.)
THE activities of the caucus in the Fainsod debate never approached the feverish pitch of the previous Spring. The liberals met only a few times this year to organize their slate of candidates. The conservatives met once, then circulated a list of their candidates to certain Faculty members and lobbied for their acceptance.
Changes of the mood of the Faculty made more political activity impossible. As student demands this year became more radical. the Faculty members were settling in to consolidate their gains. There was a sense of deja ?? to the "non-negotiability" of the radical demands, and a more broad-based resentment to the increasing number of demands which the students were making.
"There is a growing sense that the University as an intellectual enterprise is under attack from both the right and the left, from both inside the University and out." Hughes explained. "and hence people have begun to unify to defend the institution."
The Vietnam Moratorium in October was the first indication of a change in Faculty attitude. After a strong stand against ROTC in the Spring, students expected the Faculty to over-whelmingly endorse the single day of symbolic pretest this Fall. This was a moderate issue, and surely the liberals, who had been holding sway over the Faculty decisions would solidly support it, they believed.
The liberals did not, however, great as their outrage at the war was. A group of active independent Faculty members drafted a proposal for the Faculty to vote against the war in convocation, but not as a formal body.
Many liberals agreed that it was not the function of the Harvard Faculty to express its formal opinion. When the vote came, however, in a medium-sized Faculty meeting, the remaining liberals and a large number of non-caucus Faculty members combined to defeat the convocation proposal by a single vote. The resolution against the war was passed, but was insignificant compared to the implications of the convocation vote.
The caucuses were losing their power to vote in blocs, but the political nature of Faculty meetings was intensifying. The liberals were becoming more diffuse. The conservatives had officially stopped meeting before the convocation vote.
WHY the conservatives stopped meeting is almost a footnote in Faculty history. The caucus was beset with internal problems. Two of its leaders-Wolff and McCloskey-had suffered heart attacks. Prominent professors who might have replaced them had, instead, taken over the administration during the summer. Ernest R. May, professor of History, had become Dean of the College: Dunlop became Dean of the Faculty in January. James Q. Wilson, professor of Government, spent the year embroiled in the CRR.
Although the conservatives were the first to become a caucus, Maass explained that their objective was always to dissolve the caucus as soon as possible, and de-politicize the University.
The conservatives also faced the problem in the Fall of their "back-benchers" demanding that they take positions in favor of greater security for Faculty research. These were issues, many caucus members said, which evoked common sympathy, but appeared to be overtly reactionary.
Individual Faculty members from both the right and the left were beginning to stake out their own territories in Faculty meetings. Hilary Putnam was the SDS man on the Faculty, Martin L, Kilson, Professor of Government, was the Young People's Socialist League representative; Mendelsohn, a young political mover named Mark Ptashne, lecturer in Biology, and George Wald, Higgins Professor of Biology, became the Moratorium spokesmen.
The caucuses still exerted a subtle power (the Dean often called on caucus leaders to come up with compromise solutions to controversial problems) but the "prima donnas" of the Harvard Faculty (and in the last analysis, most Faculty members are) were speaking frequently and freely at these Fail Faculty meetings.
Though they still remained in firm control of the Faculty structure this year, all that the conservatives feared might happen to the Faculty had happened. The Faculty was: 1) politicized; 2) chaotic; 3) hostile.
And the absurdity and pathos of old-line Faculty members caught in the crunch of new Faculty politics is no better illustrated than in a confrontation this winter between Adam Yarmolinsky, professor of Law, and Ewart Guinier, chairman of the Afro-American Studies Department before the Nieman Fellows.
Appearing on a panel discussion of the race question, Guinier gave an impassioned condemnation of white liberals who had sat idly by as blacks fought for black studies and other improvements in the University.
When he finished, an indignant Yarmolinsky rose from the audience and, seething with anger, told Guinier, "All that you have said in the last ten minutes makes you unfit to be a member of the Harvard Faculty." Hispronouncement was met with scattered boos and hisses which only spurred Yarmolinsky's intensity. "Do you know who I am?" he shouted. "Do you know who I am?"
"No, who are you?" one Nieman called out.
"I'm Adam Yarmolinsky, Harvard University Professor of Law and President Kennedy's advisor on...."
The caucuses had brought a measure of civility to the new Faculty politics, but in the words of one professor, "Oh God, what a heavy price to pay." The repercussions of Faculty politics had spread throughout the University.
Expressing the change in the Faculty another way, a conservative caucus member noted, "When I see the wife of a colleague in the Square the first thing I ask myself is whether her husband is going to vote with us at the next Faculty meeting. What a colossal bore! Two years ago, I would be asking about his museum work, or his research."
THIS Spring, after fighting its way through the General Motors controversy, the Rights and Responsibilities resolution, and the nationwide student strike over Cambodia, the Faculty has grown weary of "crisis" politics.
People get tired of professors "who seem to play the same record over and over again," one Faculty member said. Senators have built in safeguards against these people: they can go to the john, read their mail, or write form letters to constituents. The Harvard Faculty cannot.
Professors also are tired of continually mopping up after student crises. Although the Resolution on Rights and Responsibilities was overwhelmingly passed, the selection of members for the committee was open to just about anyone who would sacrifice his time.
"The Faculty is pooped, but not down-hearted," Hughes said last week. And the best evidence of this is his own speech before the Faculty at its last meeting in May.
"We are sick and tired of picking up the burden, of sacrificing each time there is a crisis," Hughes told a lethargic end-of-the-year crowd. "The Faculty is already overburdened, already our research and writing time has been corded to the vanishing point."
"The Faculty was forced into a quick decision about grades this Spring," he continued. "Now a majority of students are neither taking exams nor doing political work. I hope we learn from our sad experience not to make a similar mistake again." As Hughes sat down, he was greeted with a standing ovation.