I was very surprised to find that Jonathan Ratner's answer to the question "What's wrong with Harvard students?" was so mildly worded. If his article "How Hot Do We Want It?" meant to be a plea for political activism at Harvard, he should be aware that most students who started to read his article never finished it.
The degree of political apathy in the college is astonishing and the reasons are those Ratner refused to believe could be true. Although many students may read the national newspapers, few are really aware of the wrongdoings in South Africa or elsewhere--and if they are they do fail to "have some feel for the gravity of the wrongs being committed."
Why? The students are "too self-centered to be outraged by oppression going on halfway around the world." His article has a fine example: the disproportionately large protest by Dunster and Mather students over hot breakfast. Hardly ever before had I seen so many students so enthusiastic, so willing to take time from schoolwork, so eager to stand fifteen minutes in a food line so that they could pound their knives and forks on the tables of Leverett--and all this at 8 a.m.
Doesn't this show where the student priorities are and, if so, isn't it all a bit perverted? One hundred-sixty students march to eat a hot meal, feeling Dean Fox is oppressing them and overstepping their rights, while they shun away from issues involving the University's indirect support of some of the world's most oppressive regimes. This is outrageous, but it certainly doesn't show that students are outraged by Harvard's investment policies.
Let's face it: the inactivity exists because people don't know enough, don't care to know more, and, if they did, they wouldn't care to do anything about it. How many of us are willing to risk disciplinary action when the job market is tight? How many of us are willing to take a stand on a moral issue we consider important and protest? Or just take a stand and be quiet? Or, simply, how many of us consider any moral issue to be important? Jonathan Ratner is right in that students feel impotent in face of Harvard's institutional immobility and that we can only overcome our "politics of despair" by daring to try. But who will? --Federico Salas '78