Skeptics Go Too Far

Reader Rep

fortunately, it wasn't on the front page.

I refer to a news story in The Crimson's issue dated Friday, December 2, entitled, President Remains Secluded. Harvard Spokesperson Says "There is Nothing to Report."

So the article was an update. That's fine. After a story as big as President Neil L. Rudenstine's taking indefinite medical leave. It's perhaps justified to run an update even if it doesn't really say the much new.

But the reason I thought this story was strange was that it continually harped on the fact that the administration had refused to provide independent confirmation of their claim that the president is resting at his Cambridge mansion.

"Despite the Crimson's request that University officials verify Rudenstine's whereabouts," the story continues, they have stuck to their original line that the President is at home and undergoing tests.

Which basically means that The Crimson does not believe the official version of the story. And that only to be expected. Newspapers are in the business of being skeptical, and the Crimson is no exception. But a little of the reasoning behind the skepticism would certainly help with credibility on the issue of the president's where abouts.

Else it just seems like a conspiracy theory, a la Oliver Stone.

Along this line, it's worth looking at the last time the University's public relations machine was as severely tested as in this case, when former Provost Jerry Green stopped down from office. The Crimson continued to report that the University had not explained Green's resignation, the University vehemently asserted that it had--and continued not to explain it.

It's possible that there's a huge "over-up out this time as well, that President Rudenstine is not resting at home. But I haven't seen proof of it, lack of "independent confirmation" notwithstanding. At least this time they're saying something.

So what would, The Crimson like, I asked the managing editor What would qualify as "independent confirmation" of President Rudenstine's current whereabouts.

A call from the president, was the reply, Or a public appearance of a wave from a window which could be photographed.

And that's all very well. It would, indeed, be excellent if President Rudenstine could make that call, or appear, pope-like, at that window. Excellent not only because it would set the rampant speculation than about his condition to rest, but also because it would mean that he is making progress medically.

But the fact that he hasn't done so doesn't mean that he's not "resting in his Cambridge mansion," as Friday's story implied.

It probably does mean that his illness is more serious than the University claims or maybe it just means that Rudenstine is as tired as the press as he is of his office.