A Parting Shot
Some parting thoughts:
THREE TIMES LAST year on this page I affixed my name to positions urging Harvard to stand firm on its South African investments.
I believed then that the University should act pragmatically and responsibly, that it ought to do more than just engage in sanctimonious symbolism which would do little, in reality, to help South Africa's oppressed Black majority. In all three positions I said I supported everyone at Harvard calling on the Afrikaner regime to change its ways. I said I supported Harvard action, through proxy votes and other means, that would persuade the University's portfolio companies to go beyond instituting workplace reforms and advancement opportunities for Blacks and actively oppose apartheid. Most importantly, I supported having the federal government put the heat on South Africa, through both diplomacy and well-coordinated, effective economic sanctions.
But I didn't support divestment. It offered, I believed, no promise of accomplishing anything constructive to end apartheid. Rather, in June, I--and just five others--wrote on this page that divestment was nothing more than an intellectual cop-out, a Pontius-Pilate-like washing of the hands.
Well, call me a cop-out. And give me some soap.
It's time to wash my hands.
SIX MONTHS AGO I truly believed divestment was the wrong move. Maybe I'm slow but now I believe it is the wisest course to pursue. I didn't know the answer back then, and I doubt I know it now, but if the last six months have proven anything it's that neither investment nor intensive dialogue has worked. I don't apologize for not knowing that last June; nor do I particularly care that some may believe I have now taken the easy way out. We have no business in South Africa.
If someone wishes to disagree, and can show me that Harvard's investments, its policy of intensive dialogue or its whopping commitment to helping South African Blacks through sending Harvard students to South African government-sponsored schools has wrought even the tiniest of changes in that racially torn country, then I'll consider not washing my hands.
I gave Harvard the benefit of the doubt. It's privy to far more information than I or virtually any other student here. I assumed, and still believe I made the correct assumption, that the University knew best how to influence change in a place that even it said needed change. But things haven't improved in South Africa and thousands have died needlessly since those editorials in the spring. And now time is running out. Harvard's divestment wouldn't wreak economic or social havoc on that country, and would be nothing more than symbolic.
So what, I say now.
It's time for symbolism.
IF THE LAST six months have proven anything, it's that the South African government isn't partial to the process of change.
Some would say the same for Harvard, where the process of change appears to move with glacial speed. But here the ever-present University critics are mistaken. Fruitful change in the University is an ever-present fact.
And if it's slow in coming about, well, then it's understandable.
After all, as former Dean of the Faculty Henry Rosovsky once told us, we're here for four years, he's here for life and the institution is here forever.
Aside from the fact that Rosovsky's logic doesn't account for those who opt for the five and six-year plans, it is remarkably apt.
That fact is difficult to accept for those impatient with the status quo.
But what is lost or. those who demand immediate change is that Harvard--for all its 350 years of imagined immortality--does change. Not overnight, not in a day, not in a year.
It takes time, often longer than the four years most of us are here. And it is for precisely that reason that Harvard often appears to change with all the frequency of the Ice Age.
For those armchair deans who doubt that the University has made tremendous strides in recent years consider three of the biggest Harvard-related stories of the last twelve months:
.In February, the University affirmed its commitment to dealing with cases of sexual harassment when it secured the historic resignation of a tenured professor after a complaint of sexual harassment had been filed against him.
The resignation of Professor of Government Douglas A. Hibbs Jr. marked both the first time ever that a tenured Harvard professor--whose job is usually guaranteed until at least age 70--resigned over allegations of sexual harassment and the first time the University had officially confirmed that action had been taken on a specific case of harassment.
The step, though understandably clouded in secrecy, differed markedly from the way Harvard handled previous allegations of sexual harassment, when it refused to discuss the matter publicly. This time, Harvard proved its willingness not to tolerate such behavior by securing Hibbs's resignation.
Whether or not Hibbs offered his resignation in the wake of Harvard's investigation or whether Harvard demanded it is still unclear. Whichever, the University's ability to remove Hibbs from a position of authority sent a reassuring message to the Harvard community and a stern warning to the faculty that times have changed.
.Similarly, after years of wavering on the issue, Harvard finally cut its ties to the nine exclusive, all-male final clubs in July.
Though largely symbolic, the move seemed to demonstrate the University's desire to provide equal opportunities for all.
Whether or not the final clubs will miss Harvard's Centrex phone service or its steam heating is of little consequence. They won't. But Harvard won't miss its affiliation with the clubs either. After years of pressure, the University moved in the right direction by breaking its ties with the elitist and sexist clubs.
.Also in July, after years of prodding and pressure from a variety of organizations, the Harvard Corporation reversed its position on the need for a sweeping University-wide anti-discrimination policy.
The new policy marked the first time Harvard had passed legislation affecting every one of its 12 usually independent schools.
At the time, Harvard President Derek C. Bok said that no specific events had produced the formulation of the legislation, but that evolving discussions with deans and students had led him to believe such a public statement might be useful.
Obviously, that was Bok's way of saying times had changed. And now Harvard was changing.
IN NO WAY do these three events mean the University has fulfilled its obligation to its students and faculty, to the community and to the nation.
There are a variety of issues--both social and academic--that Harvard must continue to combat. It must solve the questions associated with its South African investments. It must answer problems of race relations on campus, problems that often have been addressed but never answered. It must make the same commitment Yale made a year ago to boost the number of women and minorities on the faculty. It must continue to address the ethical problems of CIA funding of scholarly research and must continue to look for ways to improve the education it offers its students. In the community, it must seek to help those it has displaced and inconvenienced because of its expansion. And it must continue to provide the nation with professionals and public servants who value the welfare of others as much as their own.
But the University's recent actions regarding sexual harassment, final clubs and discrimination--which each dealt with the most fundamental questions of equal rights and equal access--prove that this place is capable of change, capable of solving those problems that do still exist. Those problems probably won't be solved today, tomorrow or within a year. Most of them probably won't be solved by the time the Class of 1989 graduates.
To say, though, as many students do, that Harvard doesn't want to attack those problems is unfair, even irresponsible.
I truly believe Harvard is better than that.
SOME STUDENTS, I'M AFRAID, do not agree with me.
Many here view the University as inherently evil, as a bastion of old ways and old ideas that will never change.
I guess that's why some self-appointed shock troops of change found it acceptable to kidnap a visiting South African diplomat in a Lowell House room last spring to protest the University's investments in the diplomat's country.
I guess that's why others found it acceptable to trespass on private property last spring and stage a day-long sit-in that disrupted normal University business for the same reasons as those who committed a federal crime at Lowell House.
I guess that's why some junior senators on the Undergraduate Council--which wastes almost one-third of its $60,000 annual budget on bureaucratic nonsense--mistakenly believe that their fledgling body needs to attack political issues, and Harvard's administration along the way.
And I guess that's why many around the country were so quick to blame the University two weeks ago for not allowing several homeless men to sleep on heating grates behind Leverett House. Never mind the fact that several incidents with the men had almost resulted in a serious accident.
The University, it seems, is always to blame.
Even The Crimson often fails to give Harvard the benefit of the doubt. Last February, The Crimson pooh-poohed the handling of the Hibbs resignation, saying the University didn't make enough information about the case available to the public to make it credible. And like many students around here, The Crimson continues to view Derek Bok as a Villain, as one who has isolated himself from undergraduates because he does not wish to debate his views on South Africa with them.
Derek Bok, I can assure you, is not an evil man. And for the life of me, I cannot figure out the attraction of University bashing.
THERE ARE NO surefire ways to force the University to solve the problems of every interest group that exists here. There are no guarantees that those problems will even be addressed.
We can only hope and trust--and I do--that the University has a conscience bigger than many around here give it credit for. The way to evoke change--even if it is glacial in pace--is not through violence and building takeovers, not through continuously putting the University on the defensive.
The way to promote change is not by putting oneself in a position to be arrested.
Instead, those who seek change must face the University quietly and resolutely, with the trust that it cherishes not only the interests of itself but also of its students, faculty and affiliates.
Hopefully, then, Harvard can continue to change.
As it has shown that it is willing to do.
And as it should.
The Crimson is pleased to announce the election of its 113th Executive Board:
Joseph F Kahn '87 of Mather House and Newton. Massachusetts, President.
Christopher J. Georges '87 of North House and Brooklyn, New York, Publisher.
Marc E. Agronin '87 of Leverett House and Appleton, Wisconsin, General Manager.
NEWS: David S. Hilzenrath '87 of Mather House and Lexington, Massachusetts, Managing Editor; Kristin A. Goss '87 of Kirkland House and Denver, Colorado, Executive Editor; John N. Rosenthal '87 of Cabot House and New York, New York, Senior Editor; Matthew A. Saal '87 of Adams House and New York, New York, Associate Editor; Jessica A. Dorman '88 of Currier House and Newtown, Connecticut, Sports Editor; Jonathan F. Putnam '88 of Quincy House and Lexington, Massachusetts, Sports Editor.
FEATURES: Thomas J. Winslow '87 of Eliot House and Cleveland, Ohio, Managing Editor; Joseph Menn '87 of Dunster House and Los Angeles, California, Executive Editor; Victoria G. T. Bassetti '86-'87 of North House and New Orleans, Louisiana, Senior Editor; Robert F. Cunha, Jr. '87 of Eliot House and Somerville, Massachusetts, Associate Editor.
EDITORIAL: Nicholas S. Wurf '87 of Mather House and Washington, D.C., Editorial Chairman; J. Andrew Mendelsohn '87 of Adams House and New York, New York, Associate Editorial Chairman; John N. Ross '87 of Mather House and Washington, D.C., Associate Editorial Chairman; Cristina V. Coletta '87 of Dunster House and Boston, Massachusetts, Arts Editor.
MAGAZINE: Rebecca K. Kramnick '87 of Kirkland House and Ithaca, New York, Magazine Editor; Charles C. Matthews '87 of Dunster House and Los Angeles, California, Magazine Editor; Cyrus M. Sanai '86-'87 of Adams House and Seattle, Washington, Associate Magazine Editor; Robin L. Alper '87 of Quincy House and Lexington, Massachusetts, Graphics Editor; Susan E. Ordway '86-'87 of Quincy House and Bangor, Maine, Graphics Editor.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Bruce M. Kluckhohn '87 of Leverett House and Calabasas, California, Photography Chairman; Peter H. Schwartz '87 of Lowell House and New York, New York, Photography Chairman; M. Jeremy Yamin '87 of Winthrop and New York, New York, Associate Photography Chairman; Anna V. E. Forrester '88 of Adams and St. Louis, Missouri, Assistant Photography Chairman; Wan Joon Kim '87 of Currier House and Seoul, Korea, Assistant Photography Chairman; Jennifer Pitt of Quincy House and Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, Assistant Photography Chairman.
BUSINESS: Brent J. Martin '87 of Winthrop House and Fairmont, West Virginia, Business Manager; Dahlia Weinman '87 of Mather House and Brooklyn, New York, Business Manager; John P. Siracuse '87 of Leverett House and Everett, Massachusetts, Advertising Manager; Judith B. Jackson '87 of Quincy House and Chicago, Illinois, Credit Manager; Karla L. Martin '87 of Leverett House and Detroit, Michigan, Production Manager; Mark N. Diker '88 of North House and New York, New York, Associate Advertising Manager; Betsy Kramer '87 of Quincy House and New York, New York, Special Publications Manager; Jane A. Stackpole '88 of Winthrop House and Elizabeth, New Jersey, Circulation Manager; Kevin S. Buehler '87 of Lowell House and Forest Hills Gardens, New York, Systems Manager.