Crying Foul

FAN CONDUCT

REGISTRATION PACKETS are notorious for containing a large number of papers which usually go from envelope to hand to wastebasket. Aside from the dreaded but necessary study card, assorted Harvard bureaucratic fluff is foisted semi-annually upon the unwitting registrant. But last Wednesday a slightly more interesting sheet emerged from the crowd.

Dean of the College John B. Fox Jr. '59 and Athletic Director John P. Reardon '60 have co-authored a short statement on student behavior at athletic events, with emphasis on men's hockey. In addition to the registration copy, the statement also appeared in The Crimson on the same day. The main thrust of the document is laudable. Citing the dangerous events at last year's Cornell game, in which the Cornell goalie was struck down by a thrown beer bottle, the administrators exhort students to show proper respect for the safety of the players. They correctly request that "nothing should ever be thrown on the ice."

However, other parts of the statement are not as praiseworthy. Apparently some of the traditional chants by the student sections have prompted "complaints this fall about obscene language used by Harvard fans," in the administration's words. They go on to state that "the College cannot tolerate the denigration of an athletic event by irresponsible fans whose misguided 'support' of their team creates an atmosphere of violence and hatred."

What does this mean? Will "vulgar and raucous supporters" henceforth be ejected from games? Will the student sections be broken up and dispersed? This veiled threat is uncomfortably similar to the one actually carried out last fall by Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III in response to band "vulgarities." The band's shows are now wrongly censored; will the same soon be true of fan support?

Such action would not be an appropriate use of the College's omnibus authority concerning "conduct unbecoming a Harvard student." Harvard can and should take steps to prevent the dangerous throwing of objects onto the playing area. However, unlike heckling in classrooms or at University-sponsored speaking events, shouting of any kind at athletic events neither impedes the game nor endangers the participants. Harvard should not use this document, or any other, as a pretext for regulating students' vocal behavior at athletic contests.