Liberal Dogmatism

The Harvard-Radcliffe Liberal Union has failed to do its homework. In a leaflet distributed Monday, it called the Naval Science Department's sponsorship of the film Operation Abolition an example of that department's "inability to distinguish between fact and propaganda." Would the Liberal Union make the same charge against an Economics Department presentation, whether by lecture or film, of Marxist theory?

The leaflet went on to say that the entire ROTC program "contains by virtue of its very purpose a substantial amount of propaganda and is therefore a threat to the University's high standards of objective scholarship." Could, or would, the Liberal Union say the same of the ex-cathedra remarks about the Eisenhower Administration made in class by any number of liberal professors?

Admittedly, the Navy Department showed poor discretion in presenting the film uncritically, and its connection with the training of Naval officers is dubious. But these criticisms fail to deprive the Navy or any other department of its right to present any ideas it wishes.

Later Monday evening, the organization reconsidered its position somewhat, but still agreed to press for Administrative action against the Navy Department's sponsorship of the film. Neither this recommendation, nor the attempted discourteous "sing-in" protest staged during the film, smack of liberalism, a political philosophy that places confidence in the free market of ideas to weed fact from propaganda.

The Student Council's protest is even more outlandish. Its resolution held that the Navy Department was "not entitled to make a judgement as to whether the riots were communist-instigated or not, since no legal verdict has even been rendered on that question." The statement also criticized the NROTC for requiring students to see a film "that does not in any way reflect the views of the students or faculty insofar as it purports to be historic fact rather than political interpretation." Since when do professors or departments have to clear their views with their students? Since when has an academician been prevented from voicing an opinion, whether on riots or whatnot?

In short, what the Liberal Union's stand amounts to is a hidden infringement on academic freedom. When it asks for Administrative action against ideas presented in a classroom, the Liberal Union--like the wolf in sheep's clothing--looks disturbingly like the Veritas Foundation.