An Objectionable Role
THREE years ago, it was revealed that President Derek C. Bok had himself written a letter signed by the head of the Board of Overseers asking all alumni to vote for the official slate of candidates for the Board, though Bok had initially denied any involvement in the matter. His involvement drew intense criticism, as observers considered it highly inappropriate for Harvard officials to take sides in the election of a body chosen by all alumni to oversee the management of the University.
Last week, University Vice President for Alumni Affairs Fred L. Glimp '50 said that he actively helped publish in Harvard Magazine a letter written by the president of Stanford University lobbying for the official slate.
The letter, written by Stanford President Donald Kennedy '52, was the latest in a series of lobbying efforts on behalf of both the official University candidates and the alternative slate nominated by Harvard-Radcliffe Alumni Against Apartheid (HRAAA), which this year includes South African Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu. HRAAA has elected three members to the Board in the past three years.
But of all the letters and efforts coming from both sides of this fight, Kennedy received the added advantage of help from Glimp, his long-time friend. After Kennedy wrote the letter, Glimp put him in touch with Charles J. Egan '54, and alumnus who has been active in fighting HRAAA. Egan then paid more than $9500 to publish Kennedy's letter as an advertisment in Harvard Magazine.
THE most objectionable part in this latest election drama was the role Glimp played. As University vice president, he should not have been involved in the Overseers campaign except in an unbiased capacity. The impartiality of University officials must be strictly maintained in an election for a body charged with evaluating the performance of all Harvard administrators.
That neither Glimp nor Egan seems able to understand the harm in Glimp's involvement is more than disturbing, particularly since Bok was criticized for playing just such a role three years ago. Bok, a close friend of Kennedy's, denies ever hearing mention of the Stanford President's letter, though Kennedy says he and Bok had discussed the idea in the past.
SOME of Egan's remarks in the last week have also brought the plane of the debate around the overseers election to a new low. He said that Tutu, who has for years called on Harvard to divest its remaining $168.3 million in South Africa-related stock, "has absolutely no interest in running Harvard." And he called those on last year's alternate slate, none of whom were elected to the Board, "second-rate' candidates.
Egan claims that his statements and help to Kennedy are simply responses to similar HRAAA efforts. Yet no HRAAA official or candidate has ever attacked any specific official candidates or slate. Though HRAAA has indeed politicized the Overseers elections by nominating candidates with overt political goals, it is Egan and other backers of the official slate who have reduced this year's election to its present mud-slinging level.
And the Alumni Association has not shown itself anxious to move away from such tactics. This past weekend Egan was chosen as the new president of the Harvard Alumni Association, the organization of all Harvard alumni responsible for nominating the 10 official overseers candidates. And Associate Vice President for University Relations John P. Reardon '60 was named the new executive director of the Alumni Association, a University-paid Administration post. Reardon reportedly asked in a speech in February, "What's to keep [HRAAA] from nominating Fidel Castro next time?"
Though we support the right of Alumni Association officials to actively campaign for their own candidates for the Board of Overseers, we do question the use of personal attacks and comments gratuitously linking the opposition with communism by men who are paid officials of the University or who have been appointed to represent all University alumni.
FINALLY, as both sides of the debate have said, the question comes down to the opennes of this University's governance. HRAAA began nominating prodivestment candidates to the Board because, as the elected governing body of Harvard, the Overseers seemed to provide the only possible access to the governance of the University.
But the three HRAAA candidates elected to the Board have been carefully excluded from the all-powerful Overseers Executive Committee. And when one tried to force a Board vote on the divestment question, University officials sent by Bok traveled around the country to lobby against such a vote.
In addition, the choice of Overseer Peter C. Goldmark Jr. as the next Overseers president was rejected on a technicality earlier this year, apparently because he was too open to dissenting voices on the Board. This move and others have shown the Bok administration's unwillingness to tolerate disagreement among the ranks of the overseers.
Now University officials are again involved in silencing dissident voices on the Board of Overseers--this time by working to block their election. University officials must remain neutral in this and all succeeding overseers elections. Bok and the administration should be welcoming the democracy of the Board rather than shutting out its different voices.