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.