A rash of newly proposed Federal legislation is threatening to beat down the doors of university campuses across the country, but the response of college administrators-including those at Harvard-will depend on how far the lawmakers are willing to go, as well as on the character of the laws themselves.
If the recent past offers any indication for the future, university officials here and elsewhere will have to weigh the likely outcome of even the most ominously worded legislation against what they might lose-in terms of other federal protection or federal money-if they decide to disagree or disobey.
Each of the proposed measures, in fact, bases itself on the most far-reaching connections between universities and the Federal structure:
the Defense Facilities and Industrial Security Act-passed by the House and now awaiting action by the Senate's Judiciary Committee-would permit the Secretary of Defense to label universities as defense-related areas from which suspected subversives could be excluded by the government;
an amendment to a new anti-crime bill-expected to be passed by the House today-would permit an expanded force of FBI agents to investigate arson, bombings, and potentially explosive situations on any campus receiving federal funds-meaning almost any campus in the country-even if university administrators asked the FBI to stay away.
Lobbying against these measures while they are still before Congress, or resisting them when they become law, could be tantamount to severing the flow of funds from government to academia-unthinkable considering the financial pressures which universities are now facing, especially when most of them depend heavily on government support-Harvard gets 35 per cent of its yearly budget from Federal funds.
And the defense-security proposal-even at universities such as Harvard which sponsor no collective classified research-could have vast applications where only a handful of men do work which the government conceives as defense-related.
This fear is shared by one-third of Harvard's Law Faculty members, who signed a petition against the proposed bill last Spring, and Charles P. Whitlock, who served for 12 years as Harvard's liason with civil authorities before becoming associate College dean.
But Harvard must move cautiously and pragmatically when confronted by any such measure or it may otherwise lose much-needed and valued Federal support, Whitlock said last night.
The last time Harvard skirmished with a federal agency, it did not take a firm stand either way, but evaded theissue by pleading ignorance-a course which had been recommended by the Association of American Universities, a group of 42 universities of which President Pusey is now serving as head.
During the summer, the House Internal Security Committee (HISC) requested that Harvard and 200 other universities submit a list of all student speakers who appeared on campus during the past two years. The purpose of the request, according to HISC, was to study how and by whom radical student groups are supported and financed.
Whitlock replied to HISC six weeks later stating that the information requested was wholly within the province of student organizations and not accessible to Harvard.
The response was non-committal. Whitlock said, because the issue did not seem critical enough to warrant an outright confrontation with the government.
He added, however, that Harvard and other universities would take stronger positions as federal interference becomes more pronounced. He does not know how far off such a showdown might be, he said, but in the light of the recent proposals, "all I can say is I think it's coming."