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."