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Leaflet Distribution


At their most recent meeting this fall, the Masters' Council ended almost a year of confusion over whether undergraduate political organizations should have the freedom to distribute literature under doors in the Houses. They ruled to permit such distribution, but only with the consent in each case of the Dean of Students and the individual Masters.

The decision was clearly an advance: after a controversy last spring, the Masters had banned all door-to-door leaflet distribution. But that step was never publicized, and in fact the Masters ignored it themselves early this term when they allowed the Liberal Union to advertise a civil rights demonstration by putting mimeographed broadsides under House doors.

Although the Masters' latest action is encouraging and infinitely preferable to the former general ban, it does not go far enough. Especially in a University atmosphere, the free flow of political ideas should be as uninhibited as possible. In addition, door-to-door distribution of leaflets is the only effective and financially feasible method Harvard political groups have of reaching the community.

The Masters' concern for the tranquillity of the Houses is understandable; but a leaflet, quietly slipped under a door, disturbs no one. Nor is the "wastepaper" problem an important objection to free distribution, for such literature as the political groups have the resources to produce cannot add significantly to the currently permitted avalanche of newspapers, HSA calendars, and House notices.

It should not be necessary for political organizations to get the permission of the Masters to distribute literature in the Houses. The permission of the Dean should remain a requirement; this is elementary courtesy, and the University must have some control over what goes on within it. But the red tape involved in securing the assent of each and every Master is an unnecessary impediment to what should be a perfectly free exchange of political ideas.

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