In Pursuit of Veritas
The Disenchantment Of Two Alumni With Harvard
The following opinion piece is excerpted from a joint class report written by Chester W. Hartman '57 and Michael D. Tanzer '57 for their 25th reunion next month. Hartman, presently an urban planner, author and visiting fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. says he is "very cynical about Harvard's professed values." In A portion of the report not included here. Hartman discusses his career as an assistant professor of City Planning in the Graduate School of Design from 1966 to 1970. He says he was not granted lenure because as a radical, he was "a frequent pain to conservative colleagues and to University administrators." In response to protest from students and others in his profession. Harvard set up a faculty committee consisting of professors outside of the Design School to look into Hartman's charges that political rather than academic considerations on the part of his departmental colleagues and University administrators had dictated the reappointment decision. The committee took six years to complete its task, and the result, says Hartman, was a standoff "Evidence of lots of violations was uncovered, but my claim could not be definitely proven. The insurmountable barrier was that every key figure in the decision who could have provided evidence to support my contentions--ex and current department chairmen and deans, even President Pusey refused to cooperate fully with the investigating committee the faculty itself had set up."
Tanzer, president of an economic consulting firm states that he has "been devoted to trying to unproved the position of minorities in this country and the Third World in general. "While an undergraduate, he was treasurer of the Harvard Society for Minority Rights (the University's chapter of the NAACP).
In the conclusion of their report. Tanzer and Martman write. "We felt we should not support [Harvard] by making the suggested sizable contribution to the class gift. Instead, we are donating what we might have contributed to Harvard to several organizations which are truly struggling to protect those liberties Harvard supposedly stands for--the Center for Constitutional Rights, the American Committee on Africa, the National Organization for Women, and the Fund for Open Information and Accountability."
Michael Tanzer and I decided to do something this is unusual, perhaps inquire, in class reports: we're writing a joint essay. As fellow Bronxitcs, we had met be before becoming members of the Class of 1957, and we've stayed close for nearly 30 years.
Feelings about an institution where we spent so much of our lives are of course complex, with lots of good and bad elements. Overall, we learned a lot while at Harvard, some from our professor, probably more from what we read on our own and the people with whom we spent time. Both of us feel mainly a strong sense of anger at the University, for what we regard as a good deal of hypocrisy that pervades it. These are the feelings we wanted to set down, because we think this 25th Reunion ought not to be a merely sell-congratulatory event, but a time for real self-examination.
If one were asked to pick out the essence of Harvard's professed values, they probably would boil "veritas" and justice. These values we both cherish, and we have tried out best to live in accord with them. But we do no believe Harvard has done so. Rather, as we have examined the record and experienced this University, we have seen a long term pattern of failure to protect the civil liberties of students and faculty, cooperation with government witchhunts, discrimination in faculty appointments on political, racial and sexual grounds, and failure to take a strong and truly moral position against those forces which perpetuate discrimination and injustice. We have concluded that Harvard is an institution that too often pays lip service to humanistic values but in practice aligns itself with repressive force:
We came to Harvard in the fall of 1953, when Joe McCarthy was still riding high, and when liberal universities like Harvard were seen as bastions of support to civil liberties and academic freedom. But while this is the popular myth, the record, as it is now unfolding, believes the myth A fascinating, disturbing article by Sigmund Diamond, Giddings Professor of Sociology. In the October 24, 1981 issue of The Nation, shows that the University played an active role in the McCarthy its witchhunts.
The article (part of a larger study Professor Diamond is undertaking) quotes from numerous FBI documents (obtained under the Freedom of Information Act) that strongly suggest University cooperation with the FBI document "It appears that Dean (McGeorge) Bundy is insisting that former Communist Party members, who now have Harvard Corporation appointments, shall proside the Federal Bureau of Investigation a full and complete account of their activities in the Communist Party, and shall at the same time identify all individuals known to them as participation in activities of the of the Communist Party and its related front organizations".
Another (1950) FBI document states that "...arrangements have been completed for a most cooperative and understanding association between the Bureau and Harvard University." In a longer veston of his Nation article. Professor Diamond states that "other FBI documents would seem to support the hypothesis that cooperation between the FBI and Harvard may have existed at the level of President Conant"
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this history is the response of the current Harvard administration to its revelation Rather than permit scholarly inquiry into this period of the University's history. President Derek Bok has rejected all requests to allow qualified scholars decess to the relevant document (many of which came to Professor Diamond from FBI files with massive deletions of obviously important information) How can this he squared with "Ventas"
Lest our classmates mistakenly believe Harvard has changed since the 1950s, we add two recent examples of the University's lack of commitment to academic freedom of justice. The first is Harvard's poor record on one of he burning moral issues of the 1980s the plight of South African Blacks and Colored peoples
It has long been clear to any who are willing to see, that U S cooperation and hanks are the mainstay of the apartheid regime, and that an important below for South Africa's liberation could be struck by getting these corporations to pull out. As part of the effort to achieve this there has been a growing international Campaign to get church organizations and universities, which presumably are moral institutions, to pressure for such corporate withdrawal from South Africa. An important goal has been to get universities to sell off stocks and bonds of companies which continue to do large scale business in South Africa. Seven colleges and universities have already completely divested But despite the four year effort of a devoted group of activists at Harvard (Southern Africa Solidarity Committee) only recently did the University take a partial step selling its debt investments in Citicorp a major lender to South Africa
The example of Harvard's behavior that disturbs is the case of Theda Skoepal An assistant professor of Sociology, she was denied tenure in Harvard's Sociology Department by a 6 to 5 vote of 11 male sociologist. This occurred despite a brilliant research record (her book State and Social Revolutions reserved the American Sociological Association's highest award) and in the face of her clear ability as a teacher according to the October 18, 1981 New York Times Magazine story on the case. Skocpol "was an unusually continuous teacher." A three-person committee of Harvard professors selected to review the case unanimously concluded that she had not been given a fair hearing and voted 2 to 1 that she had been the victim of sex discrimination. The hypocrisy of this tenure denial is pointed up by Professor Orlando Patterson, the Department's only Black. "What makes this case particularly unfortunate is that you're dealing with someone who is very, very good...It certainly does cast doubt on one's sincerity in saying one is looking for qualified women and Blacks." What are we to think of our alma mater, when in 1980-1981 only 3.4 percent of Harvard's tenured faculty were women (and when the national proportion was at least three times as high?)
In light of this long record what we consider the betrayal of the ideals that attracted us to Harvard in the first place, we concluded that we could not in good conscience write the usual type of "class report"--particularly today, when as in the era in which we first came to Harvard, anti-human forces on a national scale threaten not only civil liberties and justice but life itself.