Commission Begins Investigation Into Dubois Lecture Complaints
The Commission of Inquiry has begun its investigation of complaints that white students were denied admittance to a lecture last week.
The Commission will send a letter today to Ewart Guinier, chairman of the Afro-American Studies Department, asking him to respond to a complaint from Richard F. Green '71.
Green, who is white, claims he was not allowed to enter a lecture last Thursday in Sanders Theatre. The lecture was by Shirley Graham Dubois-widow of W.E.B. DuBois '88-who was invited by the Afro-American Studies Department to speak on the situation in Africa and the Mid-East.
A memorandum distributed by Guinier before the lecture said that it was open to "the Harvard Radcliffe community." But several black students kept between 50 and 100 white persons from entering the lecture hall, telling them that the meeting was only for members of the Afro-American society and their guests. Others were told that the meeting was for "Africans" only.
Friday afternoon, Dubois issued a statement deploring the exclusion of persons from her lecture, saying she "was shocked" to learn anyone had been prevented from entering Sanders Theatre on the basis of race.
The Commission of Inquiry met Friday evening after Green gave his complaint to Archie C. Epps III, dean of students and a member of the Commission. The Commission, chaired by Roger Rosenblatt, acting Master of Dunster House, drafted a letter to Guinier, as chairman of the department which sponsored the event. It asked him to respond to Green's complaint, and to comment on the policies involved in such a dispute.
Green claims he was distributing pro-Israel political literature in the hall outside Sanders Theatre at 7 p.m. Thursday when four students asked him to leave the building, saying they disagreed with the content of his leaflets. Green left the building, where he continued to distribute his literature.
At 7:30, Green says, he attempted to enter Sanders Theatre to hear DuBois' speech, but was refused admittance because he was white.
Rosenblatt said last night that "Guinier is obviously not responsible for the actions of individuals," but, as the chairman of the department which sponsored the lecture, he must be aware of the policies involved.
Members of the Commission say there are at least two issues arising from the incident: the right of public entry to events sponsored by a Harvard department, and one group of students' exclusion of other students from a Harvard building because of political disagreements. A corollary question involves the right of University organizations to hold "members only" meetings.
Guinier declined to comment until he saw the written complaint and the letter from the Commission. When he does receive the letter-probably on Tuesday-he will have 10 days to respond. The Commission has asked him to state his knowledge of the facts surrounding the incident, and express his views concerning policy questions which the Sanders incident raises.
DuBois did not know that anyone had been excluded from her lecture until she read a CRIMSON account the next morning.
"I was quite shocked," she said. "The exclusion of anybody from a lecture at a great institution like this is so short-sighted. It's directly against my principles. I don't know who was responsible, but I'm extremely sorry it happened. It would be against my husband's principles, and it's certainly against mine."