President Bok yesterday told a rainsoaked remnant of the annual Associated Harvard Alumni meeting that the University should be willing to introduce a Reserve Officers Training Corps program "compatible" with Harvard's "usual institutional standards."
According to Bok, many alumni protested Harvard's abolishing its ROTC and "sensed" that "Harvard had not opposed ROTC solely for academic reasons but had behaved expediently in the face of pressure."
Such alumni "saw in our decision a willingness to sacrifice the freedom of a minority of students in order to accommodate the moral indignation of the majority," Bok said.
Bok said that he was "inclined to agree" with this opinion, and added, "I do not believe our record and our conscience can be fully clear until we manifest our willingness to entertain a ROTC program on terms compatible with our usual institutional standards."
The Faculty voted to withdraw ROTC facilities, course credit, and Faculty status for staff officers after the April 1969 takeover of University Hall. It recommended that ROTC "operate as other ordinary extracurricular activities" without special privilege accorded through "contract or informal agreement."
The Corporation agreed on April 18, 1969 to follow the Faculty's guidelines in negotiating with ROTC.
Bok's surprise remarks before the annual alumni commencement program represented his first public statement on ROTC since he became President in July 1971.
Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, president of the University of Notre Dame, was the other major speaker on the Associated Alumni's program.
In his half-hour address, Hesburgh advocated a "world citizenship" as a means "to transcend nationalistic chauvinism." What is needed, Hesburgh said, is a "Declaration of Interdependence" to affirm the unity, equality, and dignity of humankind.
The addresses by Hesburgh and Bok followed the announcement by Maurice Lazarus '37, 1972-73 president of the Associated Harvard Alumni, that contributions this year to the College Fund had hit an all-time high.
The Class of '48, which is celebrating its 25th reunion this week, had made a record class contribution of over $1.1 million to become the first million-dollar class in Harvard history.
The Class of '23, which is celebrating its 50th reunion, broke the record for 50-year classes with over $883,000 for its reunion year contribution.
Yesterday marked the first time in the 132-year history of the Associated Alumni that their annual meeting was not held the day of Commencement. Several alumni said they blamed program planners for the two hours rain which they said was the direct result of the association's violation of tradition.
The rain failed to mar a procession of University officers, alumni, and members of the Class of '73 around Harvard Yard into the Tercentenary Theater. However, the parade had a fitful start as the Classes of '93 to '22 began their trek early leaving Presidents Bok and Horner, the Overseers and guests of honor scrambling to catch up.
Approximately 1500 alumni, students and relatives crowded the Yard when the parade began, although the heavy rain drove off all but a few hundred who heard Bok's announcement on ROTC.