Protests Disrupt Gov't Class

Students Attack Conservatism

Lowell Lecture Hall hosted the performance of a lifetime yesterday, when a popular government class was disrupted by a band of protesters.

At 2 p.m. yesterday, the three professors of Government 1091: "Liberalism and Conservatism in American Politics" entered the hall.

Professor of Government Michael J. Sandel and Visiting Lecturer on Government George F. Will seated themselves while Kenan Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield '53 approached the podium to introduce Will.

Then Adam Richards '97 stepped on stage carrying a bou- quet of flowers.

Richards, along with Catherine S. Corman '96, members of the week-old group "Strategic Offense," had come to protest the presence of Mansfield and Will on the Harvard faculty. Armed with flowers, they approached the two discomfited lecturers and presented them with mock prizes: the "David Duke Award for Faculty Excellence" for Mansfield and the "Heinrich Himmler Award for Social Vision" for Will.

As Richards and Corman finished speaking, approximately 10 to 15 members of Strategic Offense poured onto the stage from every corner of the auditorium.

The group, which had distributed fliers before the lecture announcing their plans, bore placards which read "Harvard is White," "Harvard is Male," "Harvard is Straight," "Harvard is Rich" and "Harvard is Christian."

At the same moment, another group seated on the balcony unfurled a long white banner with the words "37 Years of Family Values, 0 Years of Truth." Thirty-seven years refers to Mansfield's tenure at Harvard, according to a group member.

As the audience erupted into whistles, cheers and catcalls, Joshua Oppenheimer '96-'97 rose from his seat in the center of the auditorium. Oppenheimer, who wore a black mini-dress with boa trim, a broad-rimmed hat and cats-eye rhinestone sunglasses, began to blow a whistle and shout above the pandemonium.

"What do we want?" he cried. "We want a white Harvard," the protesters responded. "When do we want it?" he asked. "Now!" they shouted. As Oppenheimer repeated this call and response, a woman stood up from the center section of the auditorium.

"Is this a university or a circus?" she called, her words momentarily stunning the crowd into silence. "This [the classroom environment] is the way we are supposed to discuss problems." After a second's pause a male voice shouted "Sit down."

The woman sat surrounded by audience laughter as the protesters continued their demonstration and the lecturers remained expressionless on stage.

After two more repetitions of Oppenheimer's call and response, one of the protesters shouted "Enjoy the class!" Then the crowd on stage, as well as approximately 15 students who had remained in the audience, fled the auditorium.

The entire demonstration lasted roughly five minutes.

As the audience sat in shocked silence, Mansfield stepped back to the podium and completed his introduction of Will in a calm voice. Although he did not refer directly to the protest, he did note that Will had "the fortune of not belonging to the Harvard family of feminists and other quacks." His remark was met by a wave of applause from the audience.

Will then gave a half-hour speech entitled "What's Wrong with Liberalism." Sandel offered a half-hour rebuttal called "What's Wrong with Conservatism," after which Mansfield spoke briefly. The three lecturers discussed points in each others' speeches and took questions for an additional half hour. At no point did any of them refer to the demonstration.

"I wasn't expecting it. I was taken by surprise, but it doesn't matter," Will said afterwards. "They did their sandbox revolution and then they left and the grown-ups stayed."

Strategic Offense

The demonstration and the awards were meant to offer "a fake support of the white supremacist views of [Will and Mansfield]," according to James Clayton '97.

Clayton said he co-founded Strategic Offense last Sunday at Algiers Coffeehouse along with Oppenheimer, Tamara Chin '97 and Ann Seaton, a graduate student in the English department.

"Today's zap was very successful, considering the group was started only a week ago," Clayton said. "At this point we want to make a statement and move on."

The group currently has 20 members, according to Oppenheimer. The group plans to continue using "theatrical manifestations," he said, to protest against what members see as the intolerance propounded by members of Harvard's faculty.

"So long as the University warmly admits bigots into its ranks, into the faculty of arts and sciences, even on a temporary basis, we will be there...to offer them the warmest of welcomes," Oppenheimer said.

The future of the group remains to be seen, however. "Recognition by the University is not that important to us," Clayton said.

Oppenheimer's parents, who had come to watch the demonstration before departing for a family weekend in Martha's Vineyard, said they supported the group's actions.

"We are completely behind our son," Barbara Oppenheimer said.

Many students who witnessed the demonstration were displeased with the group, however.

"I'm upset and appalled at their outburst," said Scott Singer '98. "I support strongly their right to free speech but interrupting the class is definitely the wrong method to state their concerns."

Another student, who asked to remain anonymous, said he didn't "know if that was the most effective way for them to make their point known. Why didn't they go to office hours?"

Garance Franke-Ruta '96-'97 said that the lecturers' style invited such a response.

"I expected political theater from the audience, but found that the speakers were as interested as the protesters were in engaging in a particular level of dialogue," she said. "I think [the protesters] were addressing the speakers at the level they were asking to be addressed."

Mansfield and Sandel said they were unmoved by the outburst.

"I thought it was a bit raw," Mansfield said. "I don't know of any precedents for demonstrating in the classroom."

"I always have been [ready to discuss my views with students,]" Mansfield said. "I wonder why they didn't stay to listen to the class."

"[The demonstrators] made their protest and the audience seemed to get tired of it," said Sandel. "And then they left, and we went on with the class."

Oppenheimer said that the group's work is far from over, however. "I think you can look forward to Harvard and Boston at large being shaken to the core by further strategic disruptions and interruptions," he said.CrimsonSusan C. HomeProtesters outside Lowell Lecture Hall brandish signs sarcastically supporting 'the white supremacist views' of George F. Will and Harvey C. Mansfield '53.