UNWISE AND OBJECTIONABLE ARTICLE

The Mail

To the Editors of the Crimson:

As one of the signers of the recent faculty statement condemning the disturbance of Professor Herrnstein's classes and in view of the continuing discussion, I should like to add these comments to my earlier signature.

I signed the letter to join in reassertion of the principle that disturbance of classes cannot be tolerated and to protest the type of out-of-class agitation (involving misrepresentation of Herrnstein's statements, as reported in the Crimson) which evidently occurred. At the same time I feel that the article under debate--especially in association with the slanted editorial introduction--was unwise and to me objectionable. It should have been made clear therefore that the signers of the faculty statement included people (or at least one person) who felt that the article was neither of compelling quality nor merit and--in view of the hurt and disturbance to which it would give rise--of poor judgment.

Not being a geneticist, I will not pass on the question whether ability is inherited or not. Speaking as a layman, it would seem to me reasonable to assume that inheritance is one factor; but speaking as a social scientist with some experience with quantative work, the evidence mentioned in the article seems to me to be extremely skimpy. Nor do I find evidence of a critical review of the quantitative procedures underlying the alleged findings by the author sufficient to lead me to accept his judgment that the case is indeed proven beyond doubt.

However this may be, the problem would not be conflict-laden if all people had green skin and were members of the same class, but such is not the case, hence the difference between writing on botany and writing on genetics. The crucial point is that propositions about inherited intelligence (applicable to individuals within all groups) are one thing, while conclusions about differentials in average intelligence among racial groups are quite another. The latter do not follow from the former, yet it is easy to slip into the error that they do. Professor Herrnstein does not explicitly draw the second conclusion, and there is even a small sentence disclaiming it. Yet the whole setting of the article including its slanted editorial introduction leaves an overall impression that such a conclusion is suggested.

I do not see that the empirical data cited support such a conclusion whith a degree of probability acceptable in a sophomore paper on statistics, especially if the massive environmental differentials between racial groups are considered. I therefore find it wrong to launch an article of this sort at the very time when the rectification of racial injustices of the past is the overriding concern of our country. Academic freedom, like other privileges, involves obligations as well as rights. These rights, as I see it, do not offer a franchise to write lightly, on the basis of the most sketchy evidence, on propositions which inflict severe injury on others as well as on the prospects of solving our tragic heritage in race relations.

Feeling this way, should I conclude that the type of protests which occurred were indeed justified? The answer is no because the university above all must be a place where discussion can be carried on in civilized terms. Yet it should have been made clear in the faculty statement from the outset that the signers included people holding the above view. Since it was not, I wish to do so through this letter. Richard A. Musgrave   Professor of Economics