What Good Did It Do?

ON APRIL 10, 1969, I ran into Law School Dean Derek Bok just outside University Hall and asked him how he felt about the previous day's occupation, the morning's bloody bust, and the hangover of distrust and hatred throughout Harvard.

"This is the saddest day in my life," he said. "It's terrible to see the community you've been involved in all your life turned on its ears."

The last time I saw Derek Bok was a couple of months ago, just outside Massachusetts Hall, and he asked me what I was going to do next year. I think he expected better of me, but I told him I am going to try my hand at entertainment law with a large New York firm.

"Oh, I thought about that when I was in law school," he said jovially, clapping me on the back. "But then I found out that all you do is look over a lot of contracts. It's not really so glamorous."

Nor is it so progressive, as many friends have been quick to point out. Five years after my conversion to the Left, five years after Nate Pusey's very own Watergate made Derek Bok the Gerry Ford of the academic world, what is there to show for it all?

Of course I will never forget that morning at dawn, when hundreds of policemen and their clubs, overseen by that cold man watching from his mansion with binoculars, taught us what power the University commanded behind its shabby-genteel facade of sherry-sipping rationality--and on which side that cruel power would be exercised.

But five years have passed, and Nathan Pusey's name, instead of being expunged from the University's records, is plastered around a corner of the Yard to tell us that big hole will be plugged with a library dedicated to him.

Archibald Cox is known not as the man who counseled the quick bust (a technique he learned, in the best academic tradition, by studying the disaster at Columbia), but for more recent, more noble efforts.

Derek Bok is known not as the man who won the admiration of the community (and, two years later, his present job) for arguing against use of the police, but as the man who wouldn't mind seeing ROTC return. There's the next war to think about, and all those rich, reactionary alumni.

And Harvard is hardly the fearful, turbulent Latin American university the Faculty ominously predicted. It's a community where grade-grubbing has reached new heights, where the undergraduates make good use of the libraries as well as the new bars that have popped up around the Square, where the big issues apparently include whether or not some students have been given tips on exams.

Nathan Pusey's name, instead of being expunged from the University's records, is plastered around a corner of the Yard to tell us that big hole will be plugged with a library dedicated to him.

So what happened? Was anything won--or lost?

It is difficult now, with Nixon reeling, to recall the terror he inspired five years ago. The "secret" bombing of Cambodia had just been reported in The Times, and though no more was to be heard of it for a long time, the knowledge that unreported horrors were being perpetrated could be denied only by the willfully deaf and blind. And the reported horrors were quite bad enough.

At home we faced eight years of an administration vociferously dedicated to the repression of dissent. If the Houston plan came as a shock to most Americans in 1973, we knew years before that something like it, or worse, had to be in the minds of the thugs in the White House.

And the country was cowed, when it was not actually collaborating. The networks refused to cover huge antiwar demonstrations. The ghost of Joe McCarthy, though officially vilified, haunted the land.