The Faculty's Quiet Revolution
The Strike as History
In April 1969, many honestly believed the revolution had come to Harvard. They saw the end of Western civilization, symbolized by 200 dogma-spouting students who took over a University building and rudely, physically, ejected a group of deans. But although the events of that tumultuous year did cause a revolution, it was not the one SDS had envisioned, or the conservative faculty had feared. Unnoticed at first, another and more lasting revolution took place: the Faculty asserted control and, for a few months, had more to say about running the University and shaping its future than even President Nathan Marsh Pusey '28.
Throughout 1968 and the early spring of 1969, tensions had been building at college campuses. Eruptions at Columbia and Berkeley reflected a growing student politicization and consensus about the evils of the Vietnam War. In the fall of 1968, Archibald Cox '34, Williston Professor of Law, appeared before the Faculty at Pusey's request to discuss the lessons Harvard should draw from the bust and riots at Columbia that previous spring. But as Harry Levin, Babbitt Professor of Comparative Literature, recalls, "We hadn't learned much from what we heard from Cox."
Despite increasingly vocal student protest focused on the presence at Harvard of the military Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), Pusey and the Harvard Corporation resisted and attempted to circumvent Faculty legislation calling for an end to ROTC's accreditation. Nor did the administration attend to other sources of friction from both students and Faculty members. Pusey--whom one former junior faculty member calls "single-handedly more responsible than any other person" for the April disturbances--avoided student contact assiduously. Nor was he more receptive to faculty members--most professors interviewed said they could remember having arode?, at the most, one visit to Pusey's office.
As these tensions grew, the prelude to the occupation of University Hall came in the form of a sit-in at Paine Hall in December 1968. One hundred SDS sympathisizers refused to move from the building, forcing the cancellation of a special Faculty meeting scheduled to discuss ROTC. The Paine Hall incident had a fairly peaceful ending--the students handed in their bursar cards after the meeting was cancelled and left the building. But the protest set in motion the faculty revolution.
Spurred by Faculty legislation, Pusey appointed a Faculty committee "to re-examine and report on the structures, procedures and the decision-making processes of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, including ways in which students might participate in reaching decisions. This committee, later known as the Fainsod committee for its chairman, Pforzheimer Professor of Government Merle Fainsod, was later to propose a broad restructuring of Faculty and student self-government--the most tangible and permanent outgrowth of the spring of 1969.
Although Pusey had been forced to appoint the committee for the purpose of proposing changes in the administration, he carefully hedged his bets; he selected a committee "heavily weighted to be supportive of the establishment," James C. Thomson Jr., then a junior faculty member who served on the committee, says. "They didn't know initially that Thomson would turn out to be the Bolshevik member of the committee or that Harry Levin would be my closest ally," Thomson adds. Levin seconds Thomson's evaluation of the predominantly middle-of-the-road sentiments of the committee members, but adds that events at Harvard that spring changed many members' viewpoints after they had been appointed.
Although the committee report would later recommend significantly increased student input into the University's decision-making structure, Thomson says members of the committee at first violently objected to student representation on the committee. "The issue of student representation was the first and overriding issue which consumed us, and this blew the committee sky-high," Thomson says. "Even the idea of non-voting student advisory members caused several members to say that if students were attached to the committee in any form they would resign. After one of these sessions I went to Merle Fainsod and said if students are not attached to this committee, I will resign," he adds.
The committee settled on the compromise of non-voting student advisers, and in its report effusively acknowledged their effectiveness. Thomson credits the presence of the students for what he calls the "radicalization" of the committee. "I began to watch professors who had only known students as barbarians in that throng below the podium, hearing words of wisdom out of the young, and they began to respect them," he recalls.
While the Fainsod Committee, out of the public eye, debated the issues of Faculty governing structure and student representation, students seized the initiative to make their voices heard. The events of April shattered the relatively calm, depoliticized security in which the committee worked. "The committee was set up too late for its purpose--if its purpose was to prevent an uprising. But the report was more liberal and humane because of what had happened. Some people had to have their eyes opened," Levin notes.
From the day of the occupation until the Commencement ceremonies in June, a stunned and angry Pusey made no personal appearance at the College. The president literally went into hiding; he left faculty, administrators and Corporation members such as Hugh Calkins '43 to assume leadership, and they vied with each other to produce statements condemning or defending Pusey's decision to call in the police. To a large extent, Fainsod Committee members assert, the committee filled this gap in central administration--mostly because although many Faculty members trusted no one, they distrusted the committee least. "The Fainsod committee helped to hold the University together," Levin says. Andrew M. Gleason, Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, recalls more modestly, "We became fairly important."
The committee's first task was to determine election procedures and tally returns for the Committee of 15, set up to investigate the causes of the occupation and to discipline the protesters. Both liberals and conservatives put up slates, while the Faculty met to debate Afro-American Studies, the Fainsod Committee struggled to count the ballots--which, Thomson says, persisted in adding up wrong. The need to juggle Faculty interests and maintain credibility kept the committee so busy it had to ask for an extension for their report, originally scheduled to appear May 1.
As the Committee of 15 gradually assumed the spotlight, its meetings boycotted and its very function protested by students, the Fainsod Committee slipped back into productive obscurity. As it's hearings progressed, the committee heard testimony from administrators and faculty members who detailed the problems with Harvard's antiquated governing structure, and the severe lapses in communication between faculty and administrators. "Harvard as a corporation was undermanned--many of the people who managed it were old graduates who stayed around and weren't qualified to run it. There was a general feeling there were not adequate channels of communication to the top," Levin notes. Thomson agrees, and says the testimony provided example after example of "horrendous communication." "What we learned in testimony was that Franklin Ford as dean of the faculty had no access to the Corporation and had to put any action of the Faculty in writing to Pusey. Pusey alone appeared before the Corporation to plead the case and no one knew what Pusey said to them, and that made the dean a pretty frustrated guy," he adds.
Although the Fainsod Committee was not charged with responsibility for changing University governing methods, Levin says his service on the committee convinced him of defects in the structure of the Corporation at that time. "The Corporation was a very small group of people--mostly lawyers--who were not in touch with what was going on, but who had complete autonomy," he says. Thomson notes that now the Corporation hears testimony from many different sources--in part because it was forced to confront a different vision of the University, one it hadn't known existed. "There was a very strong feeling abroad in the land that everyone should be in on the business of decision-making." Gleason says.
The Fainsod Committee report, released to the Faculty in October, addressed this concern. It recommended a number of structural changes designed to open up decision-making in the University, both to faculty and students. The Fainsod Committee set up the Faculty Council, the Commitees on Undergraduate and Graduate Education, the Committee on Houses and Undergraduate Life, and the Faculty docket committee. The report also suggested the present practice of consultation between administration and Faculy in selecting the University president, administrative deans and honorary degree holders.
In addition to the changes that survive today, the committee also recommended a Committee, on Students and Community Relations and re-activation of the University Council, a broader assemblage of deans and Faculty members than the Executive Council that Pusey consulted before the bust--although the Faculty formally approved these recommendations, it never implemented them.
Faculty members on the committee are unanimous in agreeing that the recommendations that were adopted significantly improved communication between Faculy and administration. While Faculty members disagree how effectively the new committees manage to share decision-making authority with students, they all say students now have a great deal more input than in 1969.
The committee's report also emphasized the restructuring of Faculty governance. Pusey's decision to call the police to clear University Hall, and his complete lack of consultation with the Faculty (aside from a small group of deans) infuriated most Faculty members and engendered a widespread distrust of many of the administrators involved in the decision to make the bust. In addition, the lack of communication between the Faculty and the Corporation, Dean Ford's own disagreement with the Faculty vote on ROTC and his admitted frustration at trying to speak for the entire Faculty, the hasty drafting of legislation on the floor on Faculty meetings--all these combined to convince many Faculty members that the time had come for a greater Faculty voice in the administration, and in running its own affairs. To accomodate this sentiment, the report proposed "a larger administrative role for the Faculty than it has exercised hitherto." The committee recommended establishing a 20-member Faculty Council to act like a Congressional committee or subcommittee--to screen and report on legislation, to oversee educational policy, to foresee committee appointments, and to plan priorities for Faculty growth and development. The council was designed to grant a larger number of Faculty members the chance to participate in designing educational policy in cooperation with the dean of the Faculty. The report also instituted a docket committee to set the Faculty agendas, rather than allowing the dean of the Faculty to do it himself. Finally, in a tactfully worded statement that nevertheless appeared to express the Faculty's anger toward many administrative deans, the committee called for most senior deanships to be filled by teaching members of the Faculty.
The Faculty largely accepted the recommendations, but imposed a change in the method proposed to select the Council's members. The report had suggested the traditional method of allowing the dean of the Faculty choose the members, with competing slates if Faculty members desired. Thomson and Levin say they tried to insejt a clause in the report that would mandate the election of Faculy Council members. They were overruled by the committee, only to be upheld by the Faculty after furious canvassing by both the liberal and conservative caucuses.
The committee recomendations on student decision-making would have been viewed, only a few months before the strike, as unacceptably radical. "I strongly believed the Faculty and students should have more directly to say about the way the University runs," Levin says now, and the report echoed his, and other committee members' convictions. "We are persuaded that present arrangements for exchange of ideas between students and faculty on matters of common educational concern leave much to be desired," it read, and it goes on to envision a set of student-faculty committees as forums for open discussion of issues affecting student life and education. The Fainsod Committee thus called for a student voice in shaping policy related to student housing, extracurricular activities, and broad educational policy, but it specifically rejected a model of total democracy. Instead, the committee argued to exclude students from voting on such matters as tenure appointments and final curriculum decisions, because, it said, a professionally trained and experienced Faculty would make more informed decisions.
But the committee did envision a full student voice in determining policy on housing, undergraduate social rules, and contributing to the discussions of educational policy: with equal student-faculty ratios on the CGE and CUE.
While these recommendations doubtlessly resulted in a vast improvement over the frustrated system of communication that prevailed in 1969, Faculty and students today disagree how significant the committee's changes actually were. Most Faculty say the Faculty Council is a welcome and effective institutional innovation, although, as Gleason notes, much enthusiasm for participating in the Council has largely died. "As I think our committee expected, people were scrambling to get into politics, and it's hard now to get people. What I've always felt is wrong is that the people--both Faculty and students--who want to get involved are politicos, and those aren't the people I want to hear from," he says.
Controversy still surrounds the issue of student input into decision-making. From their own experience with the communication breakdown in 1969, most Faculty stress the improvement over ten years ago. And many students who have served on CUE or CHUL say they believe they have significantly contributed to decisions the committees make; the faculty members actually listen to what they have to say, and sometimes change their minds, they report still, one student active on these committees says there remain a number of structural problems that prohibit real representation of most students' views, problems that inhibit completely frank discussion. "Students on these committees don't like being accused of being co-opted, but the structure is inherently defective. Students as a whole don't feel they are represented and the representatives don't feel like they have a constituency.
Despite these structural inadequacies, Levin says he believes the report and the turbulence of 1969 accomplished a great deal. "The lesson was learned. The tight little groups that controlled the University, without knowing much about it, learned the lesson of consultation," he asserts. Whether students of 1979 share his conviction is another matter. For it is clear that the Faculty, not the students, benefitted the most from the April uprising, not by Machiavellian planning, but simply through increased access to power. With the Faculty Council, a reorganized bureaucratic structure, a new president who maintains a considerably warmer rapport with Faculty members, and a greater voice in its own, and the University's affairs, the Faculty achieved a quiet revolution. Of course, the question of whether students will remain content with keeping their own voices subdued remains a serious question that Harvard continues to face.