ROTC: Is It Coming Back?
FRESHMEN WANDERING over to shannon Hall this year will find it difficult to imagine the battle lines drawn at Harvard in 1969. No longer do framed pictures of bombers, battleships and missiles decorate Shannon's corridors. No longer do Harvard classroom discussions revolve around issues of "the professional officer" and "advanced tactical concepts."
Once the headquarters for Harvard's Reserve Officer Training Corps units, Shannon today is a typical classroom building devoted to seminar rooms, labs, and teaching fellows' offices. Its most militant cry is an occasional child's scream wafting upwards from the day care center which occupies territory in Shannon's basement.
President Bok told a rain-soaked audience of alumni and parents last June 13 that he is "inclined to agree" with alumni who believe that political pressure on the University rather than a thorough, fair debate on academic grounds drove ROTC from its Harvard base in Spring 1969.
"I do not believe that our record and our conscience can be fully clear until we manifest our willingness to entertain an ROTC program on terms compatible with our usual institutional standards," Bok said.
The Faculty voted 385 to 25 on April 17, 1969 to recommend that the Harvard Corporation deny ROTC any privileges beyond those accorded to other extracurricular organizations.
The Faculty vote followed by nine days the occupation of University Hall by 300 to 400 students demanding an end to Harvard ROTC. On April 10, police invaded University Hall, injuring dozens of students and arresting 250 people. Two thousand students voted to strike the same day.
IN PASSING its resolution, however, the Faculty was only clarifying a resolution it had passed three months earlier. The Faculty voted 207 to 125 on February 4, 1969 to:
*deny course credit to ROTC courses;
*deny Faculty appointments to ROTC teaching personnel; and
*deny ROTC the free use of Harvard buildings and materials.
The February decision came in the wake of three reports by Faculty committees--the Harvard-Radcliffe Policy Committee, the Committee on Educational Policy, and the Student-Faculty Advisory Committee-as well as by the now-defunct Harvard Undergraduate Council recommending that ROTC be restructured for academic reasons.
Even in April, under an atmosphere of far greater tension than could have prevailed in February, only two Faculty members spoke in favor of an SDS resolution to deny ROTC recognition in any curricular or extracurricular form. All other resolutions, contrary to the implication of Bok's June speech, were phrased in terms of educational--not political--policy.
Despite their differing recommendations, the four committees submitting resolutions to the February 4 meeting generally focused on the same four educational problems:
*Pre-professional training conducted by an outside organization recruiting career members violates Harvard's conception of a liberal university.
*Under the law, the Faculty could not be assured final say over the substance of the ROTC curriculum, much of which appeared less rigorous than is expected of Harvard courses.
*The Faculty could only approve or disapprove of teaching personnel in ROTC nominated by the military--an outside establishment--for Faculty appointments.
*The relationship of ROTC staff members to the military and to the government suggested that ROTC instructors might hesitate to openly question U.S. policy. Furthermore, the Faculty could not offer its usual protection to any ROTC instructor under pressure to restrict his public statements.
BOTH FACULTY resolutions requested that the University compensate ROTC students for any need created by the termination of the program.
All three services' ROTCs required at least four ROTC half-courses, some form of drill, and a number of regular Faculty courses to be approved by the commanding officer of each student's ROTC unit. Each service provided allowances to help cover books and required uniforms.
ROTC final exams, still on file in Lamont Library, offer evidence of the lack of rigor and scholarly detachment which the Faculty committees saw as necessary for Arts and Sciences teaching.
Exam questions included, "For instructional purposes, the hand salute is a (one, two, or three) count movement?" and "The Harvard university campus library's two basic bibliographical tools are the-----and the-----."
An aerospace science exam question read, "The human mind is a wonderful organism. It has four abilities. The first two enable us to 'know things.' These are the ability [sic] to-----and to-----. Our other two mental abilities enable us to 'use the knowledge we perceive and retain." These are the ability to [sic] to-----and to-----."
One navy exam offered ten points for correctly identifying war as an art or a science with appropriate reasons.
Finally, it seemed questionable whether ROTC staff would grade answers objectively to questions such as "Should the U.S. halt the bombing of North Vietnam?"
F.X. Brady, former professor of Naval Science, said in 1969 that 75 non-ROTC students were taking NROTC courses. He said he thought most were looking for non-demanding, tuition-free ways to make up failures in other courses.
Despite the apparent intention of the Faculty in February to reduce ROTC, at the very least, to an extracurricular program, the Corporation announced it would deny ROTC credit, but that it would not be bound by Faculty recommendations on ROTC's use of Harvard facilities.
FORMER PRESIDENT Pusey announced on March 26 that the Corporation "would do everything possible to keep ROTC."
Franklin L. Ford, former dean of the Faculty, wrote secretly to Pusey on February 11 labeling the resolution of his own Faculty "a very badly framed, gratuitously unpleasant, and basically confused pronouncement."
By April, liberal Faculty and students were attacking Pusey and Ford for attempting to circumvent the clear intention of the Faculty's original resolution. It was not the Faculty's position, but the degree of cooperation by the Corporation that changed as pressure mounted from February to April.
Bok's surprise statement in June--his first public discussion of the ROTC issue outside of question-and-answer periods after alumni dinners--and the enthusiastic support of alumni to his speech led to immediate speculation that Bok had plans for maneuvering ROTC again behind Harvard lines.
Bok said last month, however, that he had no plans in June nor does he have plans now to urge the Faculty to formally reconsider ROTC. He said he had not spoken to Dean Rosovsky about ROTC before or since the speech, nor had he surveyed Faculty for their reaction to a possible new ROTC study.
"I would like to feel sure we had made an unbiased judgment," Bok said, "but I have no strong motivation to get ROTC back. I don't know if enough students are interested to warrant bringing it up, and if no one on the Faculty wants to discuss it, I'm not going to push them."
BUT PRESSURE to reconsider ROTC will not come only from Bok. William F. Buckley, Jr., the conservative journalist, has already praised Bok's remarks in his national column.
Harvard Young Republicans published a Crimson notice last February asking those interested in ROTC to contact the club. Although they received no responses at that time, Jeffrey F. Sagansky '74, a member of the club, said last month that he thought a pro-ROTC campaign was planned for the Fall.
Opponents of ROTC were also surprised by a secret vote of the Boston University faculty during summer vacation approving the reestablishment of B.U. ROTC.
B.U. President John Silver contacted Price Waterhouse, an independent polling agency, to conduct a secret Faculty referendum after the University's Faculty Senate Council had already tabled discussion of ROTC until the Fall.
Despite protests from faculty angered by Silber's tactics, B.U.'s administration has already requested an application to reestablish an army ROTC unit.
The Harvard-Radcliffe New American Movement (NAM) plans to petition early in September for a University-wide referendum to reach a definitive decision on ROTC.
"With good organizing, we should be able to win such a referendum whether the Faculty plans to discuss ROTC or not," Mary M. Lassen '75, a member of NAM, said last month.
WHAT MAKES IT unlikely that Bok had a clear plan behind his June remarks is his lack of apparent motive for advocating a new ROTC study now.
An amendment to a military procurement bill of 1972 which would have denied defense contracts to schools disestablishing ROTC was struck out in conference.
Spokesmen in both the Hanscom Field contract procurement office and the Defense Contract Administration Services regional office in Boston said last month that not having ROTC had not and would not affect contracts assigned to Harvard.
Bok said in August that he had no evidence that ending Harvard ROTC had adversely affected either the assignment of defense contracts or alumni contributions.
Furthermore, Harvard might not be able to get ROTC if it wanted it. Not enough students have indicated an interest in ROTC to come close to approaching the minimum level of interest required to establish a unit.
Although credit for ROTC courses is technically open to contract negotiation, the Navy insists on credit for its courses, Commander Harney, a member of the Navy's Office of Public Affairs, said last month.
Major Bruce 'Peterson, director of personnel for the Pre-Commission Education branch of the Air-Force, said last month that 134 applications for ROTC units are already on hand from other schools.
No decision has been made on granting units to any of those schools, Peterson said, but Air Force ROTC would be unlikely to expand to Harvard unless conditions were as satisfactory there as at schools that had applied earlier.
Spokesmen for each of the services said that ROTC units now in operation were more than sufficient to meet active duty requirements.
where Bok's surprise speech will eventually lead is unclear. Radical groups plan to forestall any pro-ROTC campaign although little evidence exists that any pro-ROTC campaign would be a strong one. Conservative groups may back Bok's statement although Bok claims to have no plans to introduce a Faculty proposal to study ROTC.
Bok may simply have underestimated the sensitivity of the nerves he touched by making even an offhand reference to bringing Harvard ROTC back to life--especially by suggesting that ROTC was a casualty of excessive political pressure and not of genuine academic, moral, and political concerns of the Faculty and students.
If he does propose a plan, Bok will be walking on the thinnest ice of his Administration. A June 1969 ROTC final asked, "Should officer procurement come from the campus through ROTC, or should another type program be used?" Explain."
If Bok's answer is "ROTC" and his explanations are flimsy, he will have missed one question--and flunked the whole test.