Just as it list no disgrace to learn industry from the ants, so Harvard might well take a lesson from the Elis on the question of student debate on the war issues. The spectacle of a piddling little committee for this or that springing up every few days to support or denounce a transitory question of foreign policy and then disappearing with the abruptness of a Jack-in-the-box has not been a dignified one. While a few enthusiasts gather together and disband without plan or consistency, the vast body of students, faced by the confusion, have been inclined to give up a fair-minded appreciation of both sides, turn to the funny page, and rest content without further questioning of their own or others' attitudes. A committee, group, or union organized with a particular conviction in mind inevitably degenerates into an agency for propaganda, particularly since it must compete for the ear of the public. Propaganda shies away from reasoned argument and open-minded hearings of the opposition, and squanders its energy on slogans, pickets, and one-side rallies. In the face of this assault, the average student either swears a blind allegiance to the particular group which voice his opinions, or disgustedly avoids them all.
At Yale, on the other hand, special committees are subordinate to an organization which provides for extensive investigation into every issue. The Yale Political Union is more than a debating society. When a speaker of national prominence visits Eli you can bet he is sponsored by the Union and not by the Committee to Defend Defense. After he has spoken, both sides are free to question him, and the very fact that audiences and members are of every political color makes for tolerance and understanding. Extremism and the black-and-white world of the political slogan are reduced to a happy minimum. National as well as international issues nowadays are as involved as an Italian spaghetti and have to be elaborately unravelled before they can be understood. This function is admirably served by the Political Union, not only because it gives voice to all attitudes in fair and unemotional debate, but also because it has the ear of a sympathetic student public.
The equivalent at Tiger town is the Whig-Cliosophic Society, which has some three hundred members, sends speakers out to address clubs and conventions, and runs the Princeton Senate. The entire organization meets once a month at the Senate to discuss issues of country-wide importance, after the fashion of the national debating chamber of the same name. Even taking into account Princeton's conservatism, the absence of pugnacious minority groups there must be explained in part by the atmosphere of free debate. Meanwhile in Cambridge the war of propaganda and counter - propaganda rolls over the Yard leaving broken posters, crumpled pamphlets, hoarse throats, and shreds of torn hair in its wake. No one argues that student organizations should not maintain an independent existence, yet every reason pleads that some place be offered where they can meet in friendly, democratic debate. Democracy cannot function without full interchange of thoughts, and democracy today at Harvard is being smoked out in the class--not of ideas--but of pressures.