To the Editors of The Crimson:
On the night of April 31, protesters deprived the Undergraduate Council and the undergraduate student body of the right to freely speak. And I am angry, angry not because the vote that night was not as I wished or that the protesters were not on my side, but precisely because this fundamental violation occurred.
It is a violation that strikes at the heart of what this University is all about: "By accepting membership in the University, an individual joins a community ideally characterized by free expression, free inquiry, intellectual honesty, respect for the dignity of others, and openness to constructive change." I suspect that we all kind of agree with this, but after Sunday night's meeting, I wonder if we all really understand the implications of this contract. Civil disobedience on the steps of University Hall or anywhere alse is valid--but civil disobedience with the intent to disrupt, to not allow someone else to speak--in effect, to silence, runs utterly counter to these freedoms, these rights.
It is ironic that the protest began with "Let us speak!" Let me speak. Let me tell you, all of you, including any of you that protested that night, that the UC is a forum with a procedure to guarantee in a fair manner that people can speak, that they will not be shouted down, or that the process be so disrupted that meetings will have to be adjourned. Let me tell you that when the meeting had been forced to adjourn, I was at first elated by this Pyrrhic victory, thinking something to the effect of "that will show them." Show what? I now wonder. Show that even at Harvard, undergraduates can be shouted down by fellow undergraduates?
Despite this, I remain hopeful if angry. Undoubtedly not all future UC meetings will be as controversial as the one that occurred Sunday, but for any that do, I remind the protesters of this: you may not grab Crimson headlines as effectively, but protesting outside is a valid option. I would like to hear you outside protesting as well as being a part of the discourse inside the UC meetings. What we--and I speak in terms of the undergraduate community--should not allow is total disruption of the proceedings. It is not fair to us, you or the undergraduates who duly elected the UC members to represent them. Let us all freely speak. James Baker '90 Council Representative Cabot House