Protest and Change

Increasingly Diverse Campus Rocked by Politics

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

The Class of 1972 had a turbulent four years. As first-years, they awoke one morning to the sight of 400 police officers in riot gear storming University Hall; by Commencement, they had participated in three strikes.

Radical movements sweeping the campus changed campus life forever. Women moved into the undergraduate houses, the requirement to wear ties in the Freshman Union was abolished and women's honors theses were first filed in Widener Library.

The class did not have a drastically different beginning from any other in Harvard history. Perusal through the 25th anniversary class report reveals an overwhelmingly white, male class who prepped at Phillips Exeter or Andover and possessed Harvard relatives or siblings.

Indeed, research compiled by John W. Gorman '72 for the report confirms that the class had four times as many men as women and was 95 percent white.

But the divisive winds of the Vietnam War changed it all. The class entered in the fall of 1968 as President Richard M. Nixon called for an escalation of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia.

Nervousness over being drafted into the armed services wafted over the campus as the government began assigning draft numbers to college students, with a lower number signifying a higher chance for an overseas tour of duty.

Relief over a high number was a badge of honor to be broadcast all over campus.

"I remember when people got a higher lottery number, they would wear it on their foreheads," Daniel R. Noyes '72 says.

Students also came up with other ways to dodge the draft.

David R. Fish '72 says that on Dec. 14, 1971, then-Secretary of State and Harvard Professor of Government Henry A. Kissinger '50 made the announcement that there would be no further "call-ups," or immediate drafts, until April 1.

Fish recalls reading an article in The New York Times which determined that if "you gave up your deferment by Dec. 31 [and] at the end of the year, [the government] still hadn't gotten to your number, you were put in an extended pool of eligibility, and if there were no call-ups, you would then be put in an [even] lower pool of eligibility."

Taking University Hall

Students were rudely introduced to Harvard life in the spring of 1969 by the takeover of University Hall, led by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in protest over the war and the University's lack of an African-American studies department.

Frank T. Ward '72 says he was abruptly awakened one spring morning by "400 state troopers with riot gear dragging students out by their hair from University Hall."

Everyone straggled into the Yard because someone had set off all the fire alarms in the first-years dorms, says Rowland W. Chang '72.

According to Ward, the idea of Harvard's insularity was forever shattered by the ensuing police brutality as middle-and upper-class students from privileged backgrounds who never realized this could happen to them received what graduates describe as a "wake-up call."

"It was as if the front pages had landed on our steps," says Daniel R. Noyes '72, now executive director of the Center for Investigative Reporting in San Francisco.

The event, however, was the political baptism for class members and acted as the catalyst for a strike each subsequent year.

Three Strikes

Bonnie E. Blustein '72, a former SDS member who still remains a Progressive Labor Party (PLP) activist and a self-described active Communist, says that her class was known as the "three strikes and you're out" class because of the suspensions some students incurred as a result of their involvement in multiple campus strikes.

In 1969, students protested the presence of Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) participants on campus and Harvard Medical School's planned expansion into Roxbury.

"They wanted to evict four families in Allston-Brighton who had been there for a long time," Blustein says.

The following spring, students protested the U.S. invasion of Cambodia and the shooting of students at Jackson State and Kent State universities, she says.

Blustein says SDS led a march of between 500 and 700 people from the Yard to the ROTC building to burn it down.

"We were chanting 'On strike, shut it down,' [and] as we approached the building, it turned into, 'On strike, burn it down,'" she says. "I was fully expecting this and we get there and everyone was waiting."

However, nothing happened because protesters had forgotten to bring along the requisite lighter fluid and matches.

"Only at Harvard would we have a theoretical plan to burn the building and [have] no one bring lighter fluid and a match," Blustein says.

However, Ward is one student who says he is glad they did not have a light.

As the only senior who was an Army ROTC graduate, Ward says that he was the frequent target of insults and hatred during his undergraduate years.

"My academic adviser, who was also my proctor in my freshman dorm, cursed me out when he found out I was in ROTC," Ward says. "People literally accused me of baby-burning when I walked in my uniform across campus."

Ward says he stayed with the ROTC, despite the criticisms he received, because his father had been a high-ranking officer in the Army and Ward felt that he should fulfill his duty toward his country.

"My father was a retired Army officer, so I had never thought about the possibility of not being in ROTC," he says.

But the protest which eventually earned Blustein her expulsion papers took place in the spring of 1972.

On April 6, 1972, the Pan-African Liberation Committee (PALC) and sympathetic students took over Massachusetts Hall to protest Harvard's ownership of stock in Gulf Oil, which was involved at the time in Angola, a site of Portuguese colonialism.

Blustein says that in the third strike PALC took over Mass. Hall early in the morning and attracted more than 1,000 additional students to the strike later in the morning by leaving leaflets throughout Harvard undergraduate buildings.

She says the group formed a picket line around Mass. Hall and was in the process of taking over Harvard Hall but was disrupted by an army recruiter's coming to campus. She says 150 of the students then marched off toward the ROTC building.

However, members of the PALC who were already inside Mass. Hall managed to remain there for another 153 hours, according to the 1972 Crimson Commencement issue. Meanwhile, the splintered group had reached the ROTC building, found no one there and marched on to Littauer, the government building.

Blustein says the group sat in Littauer, chanting, "Kissinger out of Harvard, Harvard out of Gulf, Gulf out of Angola, U.S. out of Asia and Africa now."

"It was a very peaceful demonstration, but the administration cut the phone wires to the building and announced that we had taken the building over," Blustein says.

According to the 1972 Crimson Commencement issue, the Committee on Rights and Responsibilities (CRR), then the University's disciplinary arm, responded by imposing suspension requirements on 32 undergraduates.

Blustein was told three days before graduation that she would not be allowed to graduate with her class, but the activism did not die with her absence.

At a home football game in the fall of '72, the band spelled out 'CRR' and 'exile' during halftime while they played "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean," Blustein says.

A Hiatus on Finals

The strikes interrupted Harvard lectures with regularity and obliterated the required final exams during the class's first two years.

"We didn't have finals freshman and sophomore year," says York Miller '72. "If you were going O.K. [in the class], you could take whatever grade you had going into the final, but you could take the final if you needed to boost your grade [too]."

Alan G. Quasha '72, a squash and tennis player, says that his involvement in sports and with a final club probably prevented him from studying as hard as he could have, but he still got away with it.

"I think they were lenient in those days," he said. "I turned in some trash that did alright."

The classics major nevertheless graduated magna cum laude and went on to Harvard Law School.

Quasha says that students often turned to extracurricular activities to relieve the political tension on campus during the time.

"My friends and I decided that having a good time was one way to deal with [the tension]," he says.

Quasha remembers the final-club punching process as a series of "cocktail and dinner parties where you'd have a good time."

Although final club were derided as "not the thing to do" by many interview subjects, Quasha says that membership in the Fly allowed him to meet "people from all walks of Harvard."

Other student organizations also provided an outlet for their political frustrations.

Ruth Glushien Wedgwood '72, who is now a professor of law at Yale University, says that during her undergraduate years, she was an editor of The Crimson and a indefatigable proponent for women's equality.

However, Wedgwood says that some of the organizations became more than just an extracurricular activity.

"If you were Crimson President, your grades were shot to hell," Wedgwood said. "It was not an extracurricular activity; it was a life."

Chang says that religion was his answer to making some sense of his undergraduate years.

"I was in the Harvard Glee Club and in the Harvard University Choir, and if you were in the choir, you ended up [having] to go to church every day," says the second-generation Chinese-Indonesian American. "I wasn't a particularly religious person before, but I ended up singing a lot and praying a lot.

Overcoming Obstacles

But some students, such as Bonnie Bell Boswell '72, say they felt that they could not fit into the flurry of undergraduate activities and events.

"Being black, being female, being middle-class, being at Harvard--a lot of times, these things didn't go together in my mind," she says. "I never told anyone where I went to school. At the time, to be academic was to considered 'white' or a 'sell out.'

"I remember seeing pictures of these women in the halls and thinking, 'They would die if they saw me here because here were these white, upper-crust women from New England society, and here I was a young black female,'" she adds.

Boswell, whose grandfather earned his Ph.D. from Yale, says she compensated for the exclusion she felt by volunteering three times a week at a children's day care in Roxbury.

Blustein says that despite the steps taken to integrate Harvard men and women, University officials balked at accepting black women.

"Apparently more women had applied to Leverett than Leverett could take, and they would have a lottery," she says. "It turned out that only black women students' names were in the lottery. We started a leaflet and the next thing we knew there was no longer any Leverett lottery."

Crossing the Gender Line

Harvard students broke other social constraints as well.

During the first semester of 1968, entrance into the all-male Freshman Union, the first-year dining hall, was contingent on wearing neckties and shoes. But enterprising students found ways around that.

Gorman recalls how "people would wear ties but no shirts or only shoes and a tie" to the cafeteria.

Quasha also remembers that parietal hours--the hours in which women could visit a male room--were disregarded by first-year males who discreetly snuck females into the dorms.

The need for discretion ended the next year, however, when Harvard admitted women into the traditionally all-male house system and men trekked up to integrate the Radcliffe Quad.

Noyes and Class Secretary and Marshal Hollis S. McLoughlin '72 were two of the first men to live in the traditionally all-female Briggs Hall, Noyes says.

However, such integration came with some tension.

"Some men organized a walk-out of Briggs House because they felt they were being ignored by the women," Noyes says.

Nevertheless, Radcliffe undergraduates retained a strong sense of themselves as "'Cliffies" and still refer to themselves as graduates of Radcliffe College to this day, says Karen L. Peterson '72.

The low number of admitted women and the female undergraduates' independence and camaraderie often caused Harvard men to be intimidated by their female counter-parts, Noyes says.

"There was the perception that the women tended to be brainier since there were only 400 of them," he says. "Some [women from other colleges] were considered more accessible in terms of finding a date."

However, Holly R. Sorensen Thompson '72 says that her undergraduate life had more similarities than differences with those of her Harvard brothers.

"What struck me was there are a lot of things about my experience which were the same as my brothers," she says. "You could go to dinner every night and know that you could have an interesting conversation--things like that don't change."

However, conversation was not the only staple of Harvard life, Gorman says. According to Gorman, social drinking allowed Harvard undergraduates to get to know one another--enforcement of the drinking age was the least of the University's concerns during the war, he adds.

"The first week, we were invited to the President's house and given sherry," he says. "The University poured sherry down your throat [and] served liquor to its freshmen on a regular basis. I still can't stand it."

Gorman remembers that sherry figured prominently once again after the 1969 Harvard-Yale game, in which the Crimson players scored 16 points in the last few minutes to clinch a "29-29 Crimson victory," according to The Crimson.

"The drink dispensers in the houses were filled with wine," said Gorman, and the post-party "lasted for I don't know how many days."

In 1971, the filming of Love Story still stands in the minds of many graduates.

"I remember thinking it was a dorky movie," said Sorensen Thompson. "I thought, 'No one's ever going to watch it.'"

It was the only Harvard film to be filmed on campus with the full cooperation of the University, and was made at Dunster House.

Gorman, a Dunster House resident, recalls how students took advantage of the filming crew to escape dorm food.

"They used to fill the Junior Common Room with their catering, and we used to sneak in because the food was better," he says.

The Houses

According to Miller, students retained greater loyalty to their Harvard houses in those days because they had to undergo a rigorous interview process to be admitted into some of the more elite river houses.

"For Adams and some other houses, you pretty much had to go and interview, and they saw if you were interesting," he says. "We got into Lowell House because some guy's brother said we were good people."

The house interview process has since been replaced by a randomization process in which students have no choice in housing preferences.

However, despite their tumultuous years at Harvard, 71 percent of the graduates--down from 91 percent for the Class of 1967, surveyed in 1992--say they would send their children to Harvard, according to the 25th anniversary survey.Crimson File PhotoOn the orders of President Bok, police officers tormed the hall.