FEW THINGS at Harvard this Fall are likely to seem as surprising as the revived spectre of Harvard ROTC. Few University policies have enjoyed more unanimous support than the Faculty's 1969 recommendation to deny ROTC the privileges of regular Harvard programs.
In Spring 1969, President Emeritus Nathan M. Pusey decided to defy the Faculty's overwhelming anti-ROTC vote. The consequences included a building occupation and a brutal police bust leading to 250 arrests and dozens of injuries.
The Administration-ordered bust and the efforts of Pusey and Franklin L. Ford, former dean of the Faculty, to circumvent the decision brought the University to a halt. By April, when it reaffirmed its February decision, the Faculty had factionalized almost irreparably.
Because its second near-unanimous vote followed a student strike so quickly, a few students and alumni and President Bok have suggested that only political expediency motivated the Faculty's decision. Bok went so far as to tell alumni last June that Harvard's good conscience depends on its willingness to reconsider ROTC.
The Faculty's original academic objections to ROTC still stand -- as the Faculty's apparent lack of interest in reviving the debate indicates. The original votes followed months of comprehensive study by three Faculty committees and the old Harvard Undergraduate Council.
The Faculty concluded in February 1969 that government-controlled pre-professional military training on campus violated Harvard's definition of liberal education and any reasonable conception of academic freedom. On that basis, it voted to deny ROTC course credit, Faculty appointments, and the free use of Harvard facilities.
What, then, would be the consequence of bringing Harvard ROTC back to life? Is ROTC any less objectionable now that U.S. military interference in Indochina has officially ended?
With the end of the war, not even military supporters can argue that ROTC cadets will fill immediate defense needs. Representatives of every armed service said this summer that existing programs already meet the need for junior officers.
Retired Army Gen. Hugh B. Hester wrote this summer that ROTC graduates, in fact, make relatively poor army material. Because the U.S.'s real defense needs require great technical expertise, Hester said, the army would do better to rely on trained civilians in emergencies.
ROTC is also unlikely to generate a "civilian-oriented" military. Those cadets most likely to challenge prevailing U.S. policy -- graduate students who enrolled to avoid the draft -- would obviously no longer play a part in ROTC. Those who would enroll in ROTC above and beyond their regular program under no draft pressure would be unlikely to present `new perspectives on defense policy.
Since army enlisted men already have the opportunity to attend Universities at the army's expense, Harvard ROTC would not be broadening available educational opportunities. It would only return military training to civilian campuses.
In addition, Harvard ROTC failed to affect either the ultimate composition of the army or of the Harvard student body. Few Harvard cadets received any substantial ROTC scholarship, and virtually no ROTC scholarships are granted for need. Thus, the program promoted, and would continue to promote, little upward mobility -- either at Harvard or in the military itself.
In sum, ROTC would make almost no contribution to democratizing the military or fulfilling any genuine defense needs which may exist. It would only enhance the U.S. military's prestige, increase its credibility on other campuses, and legitimize Harvard's other military-related activities.
The role of the U.S. military remains what it was during the war -- a tool for the suppression of anti-capitalist struggle abroad. That has been its position throughout Latin America and Asia. As long as imperialism remains profitable, it will play no other role.
As it is, Harvard continues to do Department of Defense research. Development planners such as Arthur Smithies, Ropes Professor of Political Economy, continue to plot the capitalist domination of the Vietnamese economy -- a major goal which motivated our criminal activity throughout the war.
The resurrection of ROTC would be remarkable if only for the strength it would lend such anti-democratic forces. ROTC has no place at any free, socially conscious University. But at Harvard, Bok's judgment of the Faculty and his analysis of the University's conscience represent a particularly grave insult.
When Harvard students demanded that the President speak out on the Vietnam war or Gulf Oil's alliance with colonialist Portugal, Bok refused, arguing that the issues required more careful study. No one, he said, would want Harvard's president to make glib pronouncements. But Bok said in August that he made his June speech without reviewing Faculty reports on ROTC, without knowing whether enough students wanted ROTC back to provide the minimum enrollment for establishing a unit, without consulting Faculty for their recollections of 1969, or reviewing reports of that Spring's events to see if his charges were true.
Such prejudicial remarks on so sensitive an issue before an audience Bok already believed to be sympathetic to such bias hardly represent the judicious consideration on which Bok's reputation is supposedly based. Though, as Bok said, he is free to speak his mind on any issue, his speech represented, at best, hopeless naivete and, at worst, insulting opportunism.
In 1969, the University bore the pain of a searching review of whether ROTC belonged at Harvard. It did not belong at Harvard then. ROTC still does not belong on any civilian campus. In good conscience, Harvard should stand firmly by its position. In good conscience, Bok should make more thoughtful statements.
No ROTCF EW THINGS at Harvard this Fall are likely to seem as surprising as the revived spectre of Harvard ROTC.
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