Prompted by complaints that Harvard unfairly punished student activists last spring, Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 announced yesterday that he will set up a forum for the University community to clarify its policy on political protests.
"I would really like to work with students to develop a consensus that preserves both free speech and the right to protest," Jewett said.
Although Jewett said he has not completely determined the format for this discussion group, he said he wants representatives from many different students groups to participate.
"The Undergraduate Council doesn't have the stature yet [to represent the entire student body] on matters like [protest] guidelines," Jewett said.
The decision to found a discussion group stems from a protest last spring when members of the Southern Africa Solidarity Committee (SASC) attempted to blockade two of three doors to an auditorium where a South African diplomat was speaking. The Harvard Police broke through the blockade and escorted the diplomat from the room.
When the Administrative Board later put the students on disciplinary probation, the protestors charged that the punishment was unfair because their attempted blockade had not broken University rules.
The Ad Board later issued a state- ment urging "that there be new attempts to havediscussions between students, faculty andadministrators to delineate more clearly theprotections which must be given to the rights ofspeakers and the rights of protest and dissent."
Harvard's Resolution of Rights andResponsibilities, passed by the Faculty of Artsand Sciences in 1969, guarantees freedom of speechand movement but does not discuss situations whenthese rights may be in conflict. The proposeddiscussion group may help to fill that void,according to Jewett.
In addition, the College's newest disciplinarybody, the student-faculty Judicial Board, willdecide cases where no clear precedent has beenestablished. Some protest cases may fall under thenew 11-member body's jurisdiction.
Jewett said he plans to invite members of bothSASC and the Conservative Club, which sponsoredthe South African's speech, to participate. "Iwould also like some general people who might wantto [balance different opinions] as opposed tolooking at it from a charged point of view," hesaid.
Conservative Club President Marci L. Bobis '88and some SASC members praised Jewett's plans,saying that the unclear protest rules have lead tomisunderstandings.
"I think [a discussion group] would definitelybe useful," Bobis said. "What happened between theAd Board and the protestors was a communicationproblem. If [SASC members] had known in advancewhat was legitimate, [they] would have taken thatinto account."
"It has a lot of potential to be productivebecause there's been a lot of conflict," saidprotestor Jay I. Hodos '89. He urged Jewett toinclude students, faculty, administrators andother University employees in the discussiongroup.
But other SASC members attacked the discussionforum as a trick to do away with protestsentirely.
"It's another aspect of [Harvard] trying tolook reasonable while eliminating protests," saidprotestor Mitchell A. Orenstein '89. "They are notsending us to prison but instead they are tryingto mire protest in discussion.