SDS Goes After Herrnstein


The Commission of Inquiry announced this week that it would not consider an SDS-requested investigation or restriction of the teaching of Richard J. Herrnstein, professor of Psychology.

The action came as SDS and the Progressive Labor Party prepared to rekindle their "campaign against racism," which had been smouldering since last spring.

In its unanimous decision, the Commission stated that it is "not authorized to investigate or rule upon the content of courses or publications" of Faculty members.

"If every opinion that any person or group in the Harvard found objectionable were subject to official challenge, all courses and writings would either forego the expression of any opinion or echo whatever the official opinions of the moment might be," the Commission said.

The complaint, filed last month by Thomas R. Bailey '73-1 and Miriam A. Sagan '75 on behalf of SDS, charged that Herrnstein's theories have been discredited, that they justify the oppression of minorities, and that they are false and dangerous.

Herrnstein had responded to just such charges in an article published in the April issue of Commentary magazine. The article, entitled "On Challenging an Orthodoxy," attacks the "environmentalist doctrine that dominates both our education and our attitudes toward social policy," defends Herrnstein's controversial views on IQ and meritocracy, and describes with some distaste the reaction and tactics of his critics.

In the article, Herrnstein says he took an "explicitly agnostic" stand on racial (i.e., black-white) differences in tested intelligence," and notes that ethnic and racial group dissimilarities are "hard to pin down as regards intelligence." In addition, he says that it was "neither my goal nor my subject" to determine genetic vs. non-genetic factors for various groups.

Adding to this, Herrnstein said on Thursday that "the sole group that has read racial implications into my article has been the SDS," and praised the Commission of Inquiry for evaluating the SDS charges in the light of academic freedom and not his work.

The past week's actions, representatives of SDS and PLP say, are only the opening shots in a "series of attacks" that will seek the firing of Herrnstein and Christopher S. Jencks, associate professor of Education and lecturer on Sociology, and an end to the use of their works as course material.