SDS, PL Confront Herrnstein As Part of New 'Racism' Attack

Members of SDS and P.L. last week confronted Richard J. Herrnstein, professor of Psychology, in what they say will be the opening shot of a "spring campaign against racism."

The action was provoked by an article written by Herrnstein, "On Challenging an Orthodoxy," which appeared in the April issue of Commentary magazine. In it, Herrnstein defends his controversial views on IQ and meritocracy, criticizes the dominance of environmental influence in social theory, and describes with some distaste the reaction and tactics of his critics [see sidebar, right].

Ellen J. Messing '72-4, a member of P.L., said yesterday that P.L. felt "it was really bad that we let the campaign die last year. Herrnstein's ideas are at least as dangerous now as they were last year."

About 20 people demonstrated outside William James Hall last Wednesday "to make [Herrnstein] aware that a lot of people think he shouldn't teach," Messing said.

The demonstrators also presented Herrnstein with an invitation to a P.L.-sponsored forum to be held Thursday discussing whether Herrnstein and Christopher S. Jencks, associate professor of Education and lecturer on sociology, should be allowed to teach, Messing said. Herrnstein said last night that he had declined the invitation.

Messing added that Herrnstein refused to answer questions from the group regarding racism, meritocracy and their relation to employment and educational opportunities.

She said that P.L. plans to issue literature on racism and also may hold another demonstration at William James Hall later this week.

P.L. and SDS will co-sponsor a conference on racism in New York at the end of this month, Messing said.

SDS's plans at Harvard are less definite. Frank R. Lonergan Jr. '72, a member of the group, said yesterday that SDS will circulate a petition including demands that Herrnstein not be allowed to teach when his one-year leave ends in the Fall, and that his book not be used in courses unless for criticism.