THE 1972 Commencement exercises were the first for which Derek Bok served as master of ceremonies. Those exercises were a contradiction in terms, although many thought they marked an end to an era: As Bok conferred degrees upon the last class that had participated in a strike that shut down the richest university in the world, Harvard honored the man who ended the nationally publicized University Hall takeover with a police invasion of the occupied building. While 1500 students received their A.B.s, President emeritus Nathan M. Pusey '28 and his first lady received LL.D.s.
If the University that the Class of '72 left behind was just a little different than the one to which its members had come as freshmen, that change was a direct result of the protest in which they had participated. Yet just one year after the Class of '72 bid Harvard farewell Pusey's successor--the man who presumably had inherited the job because of his reputation as a crisis handler, one he had earned as dean of the Law School during the '69 strike--threatened to wipe out the reforms of 1969 by encouraging the return of ROTC.
So with the right moving to make Bok's suggestion a reality, and the left mobilizing to avert any such action, those of us who weren't present for the '69 confrontations--which largely focused on the issue of ROTC on campus--ought to familiarize ourselves with the events of the '68-'69 academic year which led to the expulsion of ROTC from the Harvard campus.
THE DRIVE to change ROTC's status in the University began in the Fall of '68 when countless committees began to debate the merits of academically-credited Reserve Officers Training Corps units. In early October the Harvard Undergraduate Council (HUC) proposed a plan for curtailing ROTC's privileges. The plan recommended the removal of academic credit from all ROTC courses. The resolution had no formal influence, so the faculty-less HUC began to work toward placing the issue on the Faculty docket. Edward T. Wilcox, director of General Education, later offered to introduce the HUC resolution to the Faculty.
Although HUC members wanted to secure a spot for their resolution on the docket, primarily as an effort to establish a precedent of regular Faculty consideration of similar student-initiated resolutions, they also wanted to form a united front of student government groups against a credited ROTC program. The HUC appeared before the Student Faculty Advisory Committee (SFAC), and that appearance prompted two other groups, the Council for Educational Policy (CEP) and the Harvard Radcliffe Policy Committee (HRPC), to debate the ROTC issue.
The CEP held quiet court but failed to produce any conclusions based upon its hearings into the matter. In early November, however, the HRPC called for the abolition of ROTC's academic status.
While the HRPC and HUC recommendations were similar in their conclusions, they attacked ROTC from different premises. The HUC claimed that ROTC courses did not meet Harvard's standard academic criteria: that their content was flabby. HRPC contended that ROTC courses were externally controlled. Since Harvard lacked the same institutional control of ROTC courses that it demanded of all other academic courses, and since ROTC courses had pre-professional orientations aimed at producing officers, the HRPC argued that ROTC courses should be removed from the liberal arts curriculum at Harvard.
Near the end of November, the SFAC considered the first of the proposals that dealt with ROTC, the one that had been formulated by SDS--total expulsion of the program. That motion was easily defeated. The SDS position was simply that Harvard, for moral and political reasons, should refuse to allow ROTC on its campus. SDS, like the other organizations, lacked a formal vehicle to bring its proposals before the Faculty. But on November 20, the organization announced that Hilary Putnam, professor of Philosophy, would present its case for total expulsion.
One week before the Faculty was scheduled to consider ROTC, the SFAC presented its resolution, an amalgamation of the HUC and HPRC proposals. The resolution--to be offered to the Faculty by Rogers Albritton, professor of Philosophy--put forth a five-point plan for ending ROTC's academic status:
denying academic credit to ROTC courses;
removing appointments from the instructors;
excising ROTC descriptions from the catalogues;
ending rent-free building use; and,
giving Harvard scholarship money to any students who might lose their ROTC scholarships because of ROTC's changed status.
THROUGH the Fall, the CEP had heard testimony from nearly every group that had any connection with ROTC.
Only the Harvard Young Republicans claimed that the CEP had ignored them. And despite the political nature of some of the testimony it heard, the CEP remained concerned primarily with academic principles: whether ROTC courses deserved credit, and what effect the removal of credit would have on the ROTC program.
The CEP resolution that evolved would have forced all ROTC courses and professors to reapply individually for academic status through any of Harvard's existing departments. James Q. Wilson, professor of Government, who was to present the CEP recommendation to the Faculty, suggested that the plan would be as effective as the SFAC plan in abolishing credit. After all "What department would approve the courses?" he said. But the comment reportedly made by Col. Robert H. Pell, professor of Military Science and director of Army ROTC, that the CEP resolution "couldn't have pleased me more" made ROTC opponents uneasy about Wilson's claim.
The Faculty vote was slated for December 12. But the Paine Hall sitin, in which over 100 students attempted to gain entrance to the Faculty meeting, upstaged the scheduled debate on ROTC for more than five weeks.
After disposing of Paine Hall punishments, the Faculty turned its attention back to the ROTC issue.
On February 4, with nine specially-invited students present (the first "open" Faculty meeting in Harvard's history), the Faculty voted, 207-125, to approve the SFAC proposal, with-drawing academic credit from all ROTC courses. The SFAC resolution made no mention of the possibility of according extracurricular status to ROTC, a move supported by the Corporation. And at that time Franklin L. Ford, then dean of the Faculty, declined speculation on ROTC's future at Harvard. But Col. Pell said that the Faculty's decision "would ultimately drive ROTC from the campus."
Two weeks later the Corporation approved the Faculty's request that academic credit be withdrawn from ROTC courses and that appointments for ROTC instructors be revoked, but it voted to negotiate new contracts with the Defense Department to keep ROTC units operating at Harvard.
Several groups charged that the Corporation had, in fact, overruled or attempted to circumvent the Faculty proposal to eliminate ROTC privileges at the University. They demanded that ROTC be abolished immediately. Amid protest, President Pusey and other Ivy League presidents tried ardently to negotiate new contracts with the Defense Department.
AND THEN the confrontations really began. On April 8, 300 students forced their way onto the grounds of the President's house on Quincy Street to tack onto Pusey's front door a list of six demands, two of which were directly related to the continuing presence of ROTC on campus. The demonstrators demanded that Harvard abolish ROTC immediately by breaking all existing ROTC contracts and not entering into any new ones, and that the University replace all ROTC scholarships with University scholarships.
The climax came on April 9 when several hundred anti-ROTC demonstrators occupied University Hall and ejected all Administration officials and staff members, some by force.
All entrances to the Yard were sealed and only freshmen with bursar's cards were admitted. But at dawn, the day after the occupation began, more than 400 police--called by President Pusey and Dean Ford--raided the building and arrested 250 participants in the takeover. About 75 students were injured.
More than 2000 students massed in Memorial Church for a three-and-a-half hour marathon, and only five hours after the bust, voted over-whelmingly to stage a three-day strike against the University. The striking students demanded that police not be brought onto the campus again, that all criminal charges against protestors be dropped and that the University punish the protesters with nothing stronger than probation.
They also insisted that a binding eferendum of students and Faculty be conducted to determine the future status of ROTC, and that the Corporation be restructured to include representatives of the entire teaching community including teaching fellows, students, Faculty and Administration. With no response to heir action from the Administration, several thousand students rallied in Soldier's Field and voted to extend the trike by three days.
Then, on April 17, the Faculty esolved that any Harvard ROTC unit should be no more than an ordinary extracurricular activity "with no special privileges or facilities granted either by contract or informal agreement." The Bruner Resolution, adopted by a 385-25 margin, provided that "existing contracts inconsistent with this principle be terminated as soon as legally possible and that scholarship funds be provided where need is created by this decision."
A day later, 3500 students voted--by a margin of more than two to one--to suspend the strike in view of an announcement that the Corporation would follow the Faculty's guidelines in upcoming ROTC negotiations. The Corporation's statement touched on virtually all the strike's demands, and in regard to ROTC the Corporation said, it will "continue these negotiations [with the Defense Department] adopting the principle that ROTC should become an extracurricular activity and as such should enjoy no special facilities or privileges not ordinarily available to other extracurricular activities."
SO ROTC faded out, of the Harvard picture very quietly. And the issue returned just as quietly. In June, President Bok--perhaps encouraged by the experience of a quiet Spring and wealthy alumni--suggested to an assemblage of Associated Harvard Alumni that bringing back ROTC might not be such a bad idea.
The same committees may no longer be standing on this campus, but that doesn't mean that the militant actions of the Spring of '69 are a thing of the past. If ROTC becomes a serious issue again this Fall, University officials may find themselves suffering from deja vu