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In order to have good public relations "the University must go to work to clear its own society of attitudes of snobbishness, intellectual arrogance, and aloofness from the thought and life of the average man," Eugene L. Belisle '31 says in a letter in this week's Alumni Bulletin.
Belisle, who was President of the CRIMSON in 1931, begins his letter by saying that "Harvard should accept without demur" the City Council's proposal for a separate municipality.
He claims that the recent outburst is "more than a tempest in a teapot" resulting from the local politicians' desire to protect their system from the inroads of the type of scientific municipal government recently sponsored by Dean Landis in the Plan E charter referendum.
Meaning of "Town and Gown"
"The conflict of town and gown is symptomatic of the increasing disassociation of culture and society," Belisle says, resulting through confusion and conflict in the "barbarism" of Nazi Germany.
In spite of the fact that, in his opinion, Landis, support of Plan E sharpened the conflict between the two, he sees the solution as coming from more and not less of this sort of action: "The problem of the University is not to disassociate itself and its members from society in order to avoid attack, but rather to play a larger and more direct role in mass social life with wisdom, courage, temperance, humility, and understanding." He says this might be the test of whether culture can operate successfully in society as a whole.
"Inept Public Relations"
Belisle deplores the University's "inept public relations" coming from its Faculty's "actual or seeming contempt for the masses" and "the adolescent nihilism" of its students, declaring that it must hold itself accountable for criticism resulting from their actions.
The remedy, he says, is not through excessive "legalistic restraint with penalties" if the freedom of the individual is to be maintained, but by "the maintenance of self-government through the maintenance of values enforced through voluntary social approval."
He noted with satisfaction "an increasing tendency within the University to articulate civilized values" as a deterrent to the "sub-conscious crowd mind" which prevails without them.
Harvard Could Learn From Yale
"But there is also a practical problem," he continued, "calling for the development of new, practical means of enforcing traditional values of individual freedom to withstand extraordinary conditions of shock and conflict, social irritability, the decadence of past imagery as to satisfactory social forms, and similar evidences of social discontent."
The problem of public relations, he states, was not being well handled by the University, which could learn much from various business concerns, labor unions, and from Yale, with its annual report to the New Haven community. "Harvard has not brushed the surface of what can and should be done," he said.
Belisle concludes that the problem is one of "interpenetration of seeming social opposites," of "practical social engineering in community and public relations," and of "organization of complex human resources into relatively simple individual action."
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