NINETEEN years ago, 200 student demonstrators occupied University Hall to protest ROTC recruitment on campus. Two days later, on the orders of Harvard President Nathan M. Pusey '28, 75 state troopers armed with nightsticks stormed the building violently evicted the students and injured several. Fortunately, no one was killed. The same cannot be said of the infamous Kent State incident in May of 1970, where four students were shot dead by National Guardsmen while protesting the war in Vietnam.
Ah, if only things could be the way they used to be. If only we could harken back to those wonderful days of yester-year when activists were passionate enough to embrace violence and self assured enough to eschew building powerful grass-roots organizations. So some would say.
The 1960s brought unprecedented, positive change to this nation. The Civil Rights Movement legitimized concerns of millions of people to whom the Constitution and the Bill of Rights had become a sad joke. The anti-war movement contributed to the downfall of a President whose foreign policy could not be supported by the electorate.
Since then, activism has changed drastically--but for the better. Campus activists have learned from the mistakes of the 1960s, and have furthered their own political causes as a result.
An increasingly frequent criticism of campus divestment advocates, especially here at Harvard, is that they have sold out and have become obsessed with the issues of "governance" and "process." Critics contend that they have become so caught up with the means that they have lost sight of the end: divestment.
DIVESTMENT has been an issue at Harvard for 20 years. It has become clear that student protest alone will not convince Derek Bok and his associates on the Corporation to rethink their investment policies. As a result, activists have sought to change the process which allows Harvard to maintain such policies in the wake of widespread disapproval from its student body.
Realizing that the administrators in Mass. Hall have continuously shown contempt for student opinion, activists have sought to change the University's investment policy on a level that the administration can understand--the financial level.
The recent innovations of the divestment movement have included the creation of the Endowment for Divestiture--an ingenious alternative to the Senior Class Gift--which holds contributions in escrow until the University divests. In addition, a recent proposal spearheaded by Noah M. Berger '89, a member of the Southern African Solidarity Committee, seeks to take legislative action to limit Harvard's access to tax-free state bonds as long as it maintains its current investment policy.
Such initiatives seldom receive the flashy publicity that protests, shanties, and sit-ins do, but activists learned two years ago that boardroom tactics have an effect in combating a boardroom mentality. When SASC activists published a scathing report on Harvard's South Africa Internship Program in January of 1986, the University faced public condemnation. Less than two months later, the program had been cancelled.
In the 1960s, a popular adage was "Never trust anyone over 30." Today, not only do activists trust their elders, they work along side them, as student support for the Harvard Radcliffe Alumni/ac Against Apartheid attests. Student activists working in coalition with adults is an indication of the strength of moral purpose that motivates those advocating divestment, not a sign of weakness in the campus movement.
Cross-generational alliances have been built with members of and candidates for the Board of Overseers. Although the Board has failed to officially condemn the University's investment policies, recent years have seen the election of increasing numbers of prdivestment candidates. Victory, though not yet within reach, is still a feasible goal for activists.
THE root of these criticisms is that campus activists have become "professionalized" and therefore lack true dedication to their cause, like the heroic figures of the 1960s. This criticism fails to understand how grass-roots movements must develop. Leftist movements in this country--regardless of the issue--generally lack the financial strength and political contacts that their opponents possess.
To combat this imbalance, the divestment movements in particular must rely upon sheer numbers and a well-developed strategy. Organizational ability is not a sign of a lack of passion, as critics contend; it is an indication of focused and patient dedication.
The tendency to merge radical thought with pragmatic tactics is the key to success for any movement today. Radical tactics such as those used by the violent Weather Underground in the late 1960s and early 1970s ignored the need for public support and ultimately led to defeat. The use of non-violence, on the other hand, by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led to a groundswell of mass support, and subsequent victories such as the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and 1965.
DIVESTMENT activists have received criticism from both the left and the right for their use of moderate tactics. The fringe left often advocates violence, and hates to see the possibility of a violent popular front movement forestalled; the right simply hates to see divestment activists gaining political legitimacy. Divestment activists have learned that blood doesn't need to be spilled to call attention to the injustice of the University's policies.