The Mail OTHER VOICES. OTHER ROOMS
To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
In the light of the light of the March 26 demonstration at Harvard, I thought the following comments regarding my own experiences in two similar situations would be of interest:
During the 1965-66 academic year at the University of Wisconsin, where I was a graduate student, and the 1967-68 academic year at Tuskegee Institute, where I was a faculty member, the State Department sent "truth teams" to "explain" the Vietnam War to the students at these schools. In both cases, the students felt that no such "explanation," were needed (particularly from alleged public servants) and made life miserable for the State Department representatives.
In the University of Wisconsin incident, a good fraction of the audience consisted of demonstrators, who held up signs and attempted to shout down the speakers. One graduate student even shouted obscenities at one member of the "truth team" and suggested that he go to Vietnam and fight, if he was so thrilled with this war. The University of Wisconsin administration took no action against the demonstrators and would not cooperate with government agencies which wanted to investigate the situation.
At Tuskegee, three students threw eggs at the speakers. Apparently feeling that the Republic was about to fall, the State Department people overturned the table at which they were sitting and cowered behind it. Many students and faculty members shouted at them after they referred to the three students as "stormtroopers." Some people pointed out angrily that it was the U. S. government which was dropping napalm on innocent Vietnamese civilians, which was acting like the stormtroopers, not the students who threw eggs. Three faculty members, including myself, were later called to the Dean, but no action was taken against us; the discussions were calm and reasonable. One of the three students, who had been an activist on campus for a good while before, was given a warning: the other two students were left alone completely.
In neither case was the issue of "free speech" for the State Department ever at issue. While many faculty members and students questioned the tactics involved, the emphasis was at all times placed on the obvious fact that the government, not the students, is trying to suppress the expression of controversial views in this country. Clearly, the college administrations, faced with many other pressing problems, did not choose to cooperate in the stifling of their own constituents.