At an impromptu meeting late last night, student activists vowed to protest the Undergraduate Council's vote recommending that the Reserve Officers Training Corps program be reinstated on campus, but could not agree on proposals to immediately hold a rally or sit-in.
About 40 anti-ROTC protesters, several in tears stormed out of the council's meeting in Sever Hall after the vote. Although a few students began walking back toward the door of the meeting with the apparent intention of disrupting the council's proceedings, others persuaded them to remain outside.
Chanting, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, ROTC has got to go," the protesters marched to Canaday Hall, where they met for more than an hour to discuss possible responses to the council's vote.
Much of the activists' anger was directed toward what they perceived as council members' homophobia in voting down a proposed amendment that would have called on ROTC to abandon its policy of barring gays and lesbians from its ranks.
"I see the bill as a massive setback for the gay community at Harvard," said Thomas M. Lauderdale '92. "All that we've been working for has really been discounted by the Undergraduate Council this evening."
However, disagreement over whether to oppose ROTC solely on the grounds of homophobia or to take a stand on broader issues relating to the military prompted the activists to vote down by a two-to-one margin a proposal to demonstrate today. But they agreed to hold an open meeting tonight to consider further action, such as a sit-in in the council's office.
"The administration knows that bringing [ROTC] back means student protests," said Robert Weissman '88-'89, head of Harvard Watch, a group that monitors University decision-making. "It is appropriate to take over the Undergraduate Council office not just to say we're angry, but as a demonstration of what's to come."
Weissman told the group that a sit-in would not be possible today, since the council's office will be closed while members attend a meeting with the Harvard Corporation.
Participants at the meeting suggested organizing rallies, petitions and postering drives this week to unite students against the council's action. They also agreed to submit letters attacking the resolution to campus publications.
But although the protesters agreed to launch a grassroots campus movement, the council's decision appears to have taken the activist community by surprise. At last night's meeting, the group was divided over how to advance its case against ROTC.
"If we approach this with the attitude of fighting the military establishment, people will shut their minds right there," said Julie K. Schulman '91. "I think we should concentrate on [ROTC's] weakest point, and their weakest point is homophobia."
But others at the meeting said that it would be wrong for protesters to ignore issues such as the military's role in Third World countries. Some participants also argued that the group should focus on what they saw as the "hypocrisy" of council members who said they opposed homophobia but supported last night's resolution.
"People won't necessarily get behind an antihomophobia thing, but they will get behind a thing that says their elected representatives are lying," said Charles E. Reece '92. "We can turn student opinion on that."
"What has to happen is a break with the Undergraduate Council, a statement that we're not represented by the Undergraduate Council," said Lukas P. Barr '91. He added the group should not demand a binding student referendum on the ROTC issue because "we would lose."
Most of the activists agreed that the council meeting's procedure should not be challenged. "The procedure was essentially fair and reasonable, and the vote reflects the sentiment of the Undergraduate Council," Weissman said.
Several of the students said that activists should attempt to work with sympathetic administrators rather than embracing a confrontational action such as a sit-in or building takeover.
"The gay community is in a strong position of working with the University," said Clarissa C. Kripke '89-'91, a member of the Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Students Association. "We have a liaison, [Assistant Dean for Coeducation] Janet Viggiani. We ought to use her as a strong voice within the administration."
But Barr argued that it would be unproductive for protesters to work through existing structures. "The question is how to do something that is not subsumed by the University or the Undergraduate Council," he said. "Most of the things we could do would be a ripple."
"We're not agreed on how we should frame the issues, but I'm confident that action will take place," Weissman said.