The common diagnosis that students have become more passive in recent years is in part due to the fact that they have had less to be active about. The end of the draft, significant progress in civil rights and affirmative action and relative economic prosperity have all moderated some of the burning issues of a decade ago.
But many of these developments, which people had begun to take for granted, are changing back. The government has cut student aid, and is seriously enforcing draft registration. Other issues which had for years been largely ignored, have since emerged nationally and at Harvard. Students and faculty members have joined the swelling nuclear disarmament movement, raising questions about Harvard's investments in weapon-producing companies.
What follows is a summary of these and other issues likely to surface on campus this year:
The complacency which colleges and universities had developed over student aid ended abruptly last year after the first round of President Reagan's budget cuts went into effect. The ensuing concern encompassed all of higher education, from the most financially strapped state and community colleges, to the richest schools in the nation--including Harvard.
Undergraduates have created a Coalition for Student Aid, which, while hardly igniting wide-spread protest, managed to rally students to campus and other area demonstrations. More important. President Bok--known more for his reservations about speaking out than for his national leadership--testified last spring at both congressional and state legislative hearings about the need for additional funding for student aid.
Now, after the dust has settled. It appears as if this outpouring of support has paid off. Congress has apparently maintained the 1981 budget allocations for grants and loans, rejecting Reagan's initial requests for deeper cuts. Even before this reversal in Washington took place. Harvard officials committed themselves to preserving an aid blind admissions policy, accepting students solely on the basis of merit and providing them with as much aid as they need. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted to increase the budget of the financial aid office, and the University upped its fund drive goals by $100 million in part to pay for increased student assistance.
But with one of the highest tuition rates in the country. Harvard has not survived the student aid storm unseathed. Officials must this year confront a growing perception among potential applicants that Harvard is too expensive. For Harvard, this has been worsened by the national attention given to Bok's annual report, which suggested that the federal government could save on aid by giving it only to those students with relatively high board scores.
Evidence of problems is borne out in application figures for the class of 1986, which showed, sharp decline in the number of applicants from low income families.
Many also blame the reputation for financial elitism for the sharp drop in the number of Blacks entering this year's freshman class. Indeed, while the College accepted 147 Black applicants only 97 opted to come here a sharp drop from the 120 to 140 who normally come to Cambridge each year.
But Black students say the cause of the drop off is deeper, arguing that the College is insensitive to their needs. As one example, they cite the University's refusal to establish a Third World Center--which many other schools, including a few in the Ivy League, have created. Bok instead agreed two years ago to set up a Foundation, which he said would enhance racial harmony.
But the Foundation, under the guidance of neurobiologist S. Allen Counter, has been rather quiet in its first school year and the Black Student Association this fall is expected to come out with a statement critical of its efforts so far.
Minority students will be closely, watching two student elections this fall for the success of minority candidates. This past year, negotiations failed to develop a plan for insuring minority representation on either the Undergraduate Council or the prestigious Law Review.
Another topic of controversy at the Law School is the number of minority faculty. There are currently, for example, only two Black faculty members. Over the summer, the Black Law Students Association threatened to boycott a course on civil rights this winter in part because the Law School hired a white professor to teach it School administrators have agreed in principle to review their affirmative action policy, but no formal action has been taken.
The rate of the College's struggling Afro American Studies Department may be discussed this year. Formed more than 10 years ago after a bitter conflict between students and administrators, the department now suffers from a lack of student interest. Last spring, no member of the class of 1985 opted to major in Afro-Am.
College students all over the country are likely to rally around an issue that was the center of the glory days of student activism. Two years after President Carter reinstated draft registration, the federal government began enforcement procedures this summer indicting four young men for failing to sign up.
At Harvard, a five opposition has been basically nonexistent. The night after Carter's announcement hundred rallied in front of Widener to protest the move but since then peace groups have been largely inactive drawing criticism from local anti-draft organizations.
But if the wave of indictments send students back into the streets this time administrators may join them. Harvard officials as well as administrators from other universities have sharply criticized a plan which has tentatively passed both houses of Congress linking student and with draft registration compliance. The final version may allow the Department of Education to force schools themselves to carry out the enforcement a set-up which many say would be a bureaucratic headache at best, and which undoubtedly could prove controversial in the University community.
Should Harvard divest its stock in corporations that do business in South Africa? For many years, student activists have said yes, linking economicties in that country to facit support for the apartheid government. University officials have answered that it is not that simple, and that pulling economic resources out of South Africa would not lead to better living conditions for the suppressed Black majority there.
But this fall, the University's governing Corporation will consider for the first time ever a proposal to divest from a company doing business in South Africa.
The business in question is Carnation Company, which has been cited for flagrant violations of widely accepted conduct guidelines for U.S. companies operating in South Africa. The University has not endorsed these guidelines, called the "Sullivan Principles," nor has it established its own criteria for judging the conduct of companies in the troubled African country. It has, however, banned investments in banks that loan money directly to the South African government.
While the South African investment question has been burning for several years, a new question may this year get more attention: investment in companies producing nuclear weapons. Harvard holds stock in several companies involved at least indirectly in the production of nuclear arms, including General Electric and Dupont. In the fall, the University Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR) will vote on whether to endorse divestment from such companies.
The ACSR as a 12-member board created of students, faculty and alumni created in 1972 to give the Corporation non-binding advice on ethical questions surrounding the investment of Harvard's money. The University portfolio is currently valued at $4.7 billion, and it accounts fo 18 percent of the University's annual income.
The committee considers numerous shareholder decisions and investment policies in its private monthly meetings.
In his Commencement speech last June President Bok outlined a more active role for the University in educating people on the issue of nuclear war. "There is," he said, "surely no more important subject than an issue that involves the very survival of our planet."
Following up on that statement. Bok has requested five Harvard nuclear arms experts to write an educational book and he has asked the Kennedy School's Institute of Politics to sponsor a series of educational forums
But even before Bok's call for action a number of professional, academic and grass roots organizations on campus had been formed to deal with the issue.
Students at Harvard have worked with professional groups and independently on numerous projects such as coordinating teach-ins, sponsoring lectures and developing information programs that reach far beyond the University itself. In October, the Kennedy School of Government will host a weekend conference for student leaders throughout the Northeast, stressing how students can make the nuclear issue a key element in this year's congressional elections.
The undergraduate organization, Harvard-Radcliffe Students for Social Responsibility (HRSSR) will be continuing its Swing District Project in the fall. The project, which involves many of HRSSR's 300 members is an attempt to educate voters in 27 selected congressional districts to how they can express their opinion on the nuclear arms issue.
All of the 27 selected districts are represented by member of the House Appropriations Committee which allocates funds for arms programs as well as other government activities.
The major nuclear aims education project scheduled for the fall is a Veteran's Day teach in Last year sevent, which was observed on 350 college campuses across the country, drew almost a thousand people at Harvard.
One of the many groups which sponsor the teach-ins is Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) which was founded by Harvard Cardiologist Dr. Bernard Lown in 1960. Boasting 14,000 members nationwide. PSR is the largest professional anti-nuclear organization. The group is now headed by former Harvard pediatrician Dr. Helen Caldicott, while Lown and other colleagues at Harvard the Soviet Union.
Dr. Howard Hiatt, dean of the School of Public Health who is an active anti-nuclear speaker and who has discussed this issue with President Reagan, says the movement against nuclear weapons is growing rapidly. "It's a groundswell," he says, "and it's very exciting."
The Student Assembly met for the last time in early May, but most of the representatives did not show up. In fact, there weren't enough assembly members present for a quorum, so the body could not even vote on how to dispense of the meager budget it had remaining.
The meeting characterized what student government has been at Harvard for the past 10 years: a powerless, poorly funded organization which has been largely ignored by most students and administrators. Officially, the University has not recognized a student government here since 1969.
But this fall, students and administrators alike will launch a new student government; one which at least on paper has more power, more money, more accountability to the student body which will elect it, and the recognition of the faculty.
The plan for the new Undergraduate Council was drawn up by a student-faculty committee that studied the issue for more than a year. Under the plan, which was approved last spring by both the student body and the faculty, approximately 90 representatives will be elected, with each House being alloted one representative for every 75 students. A proposal to guarantee minority representation was opposed by faculty members and deleted from the plan
The new government will meet on its own, as well as sending representatives from its body to the three standing student-faculty committees: undergraduate education, housing, and undergraduate life. The provision should improve the accountability of the committees. The council will be financed by a $10 refundable surcharge added to term bills and is expected to have a total budget of $60,000. The organization will have access to a part time administrator and an office
Administrator and student supporters both acknowledge that student body support for the new government is vital for its survival. One early measure of support they say, will be the number of students who refuse to fund the government and request a refund Other key indicators will be the number of candidates for the Council and the percentage of students voting in the October election.
Perhaps the most shocking development of the past year was the administration's apparent rejection of Harvard roots and its Ivy League tradition. After examining a report from Harvard housing experts which explained that the Ivy decorating the walls was contributing to the decay of University buildings, officials announced that the play would come down.
Student reaction was immediate and negative, and a group called Save Harvard's Ivy emerged. But even greater was the media response. Newspapers magazine television and radio reporters swarmed the Yard hounding students for quotes and administrators for explanations.
But the ultimate question is still be decided this year. The ivy has indeed been torn down from two House being renovated, Lowell and Winthrop but the roots have been left, and administrators say that no final, long-term solution has been made Until then, the green leaves will continue to decorate the houses, the Yard walls, and even Massachusetts and University Halls.
Should the eventual decision go against the ivy, however some fear the University will no longer be recognizable. As one student said at a "save the ivy" rally. "When I first came here...I knew I was at Harvard by the ivy on the walls." University administrators have privately expressed fears that freshpeople who wander off campus could become forever lost in the ivyless maze of Cambridge.