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E Pluribus Union


Objections to a political union at Harvard range themselves into three points of attack, the first of which argues that House Forums already serve the purpose proposed for the Union. House Forums are admirable both in intention and results, yet they have limitations hinted at by their very name. They are House Forums and not centers of debate embracing the college as a whole. Audiences at such meetings draw their bulk from the particular House which happens to be playing host at the time, and only a few habitual lecture-goers represent the remainder of the college. Furthermore the functions of the House Forums differ from those of a political union in that the former provide a speaking opportunity for members of the faculty, whereas the latter proposes to foster debate between conservative, liberal, and radical elements of the student body, with an occasional speaker to stimulate the discussion. Proposals for a political union emphatically do not imply an attack against the House Forums, but rather aim at restoring some measure of order to the chaos into which expression of undergraduate opinion has fallen.

Another objection arises from the fear, almost wholly peculiar to Harvard, that one pressure group or another might gain control of the union and use if for purposes approved by that one group alone. No one can deny the possibility that such fears might prove real if the experiment were tried. For this reason the union could not be sponsored by any existing student organization, each of which is interested only in its own clamorous attitude toward World War II. Yet granted the possibility of "domination," when the initiative to start an organization dedicated to free debate is stifled by fears for its independence, democracy at Harvard has arrived at a deplorable pass.

The tongue of the student body has been waggling so frantically in recent months that many of us have forgotten about the bone and muscle--that vast majority of undergraduates ranging from conservative to liberal who belong to no pressure group, largely favored Willkie in the last election, and are so overawed by the militant minority of liberal-to-leftists that they have made no attempt to have themselves heard. Britain has its Tory party; the United States has its Republicans; but who has ever heard a peep from the conservative at Harvard? With reference to equal representation for every political opinion, the union must not only avoid open or covert control by one pressure group or another, but must also allow, and if necessary seek, a conservative element as powerful as this collge group is numerous. So much the more reason why existing student organizations, none of which represent the conservative viewpoint, could not foster such a union.

A last objection raised against the program is that the enthusiasm essential to its success would be too short-lived for it to be effective. Few can doubt that enthusiasm will be sufficient while the gripping and vastly important decision between war and peace is being made. A political union will have amply repaid all time and effort spent on it if it contributes toward a mature and thoughtful investigation of that decision, and even though it should vanish the day after the verdict has been given one way or the other, it will have fulfilled its purpose.

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