Text of Letter from the AAAAS

The Mail

The following is the text of a letter sent by the Association of African and Afro-American Students to the Faculty Committee on Student Activities:


The executive committee of the proposed Harvard Association of African and Afro-American Students has directed me to present this short explanation of our petition for official recognition. The decision to seek University recognition was taken by the general membership of the Association after careful and prolonged debate. As outlined in the preamble to our constitution, our aims are to promote mutual understanding and friendship among ourselves; to provide for ourselves a voice in our campus community: and to develop the leadership capabilities of our members which are direly needed to cope effectively with the problems of our peoples. Our membership feels that we can best achieve these aims by being accredited with official Harvard recognition. It was for this reason that we followed the normal procedure of presenting our application to the Harvard Council for Undergraduate Affairs for recommendation. It is a pity, however, that the Council took the unprecedented and unwarranted step of refusing to recommend our Association. We claim that the step was unfortunate and disillusioning for the following reasons:

Deny Discrimination

(1) The reason for the rejection was a point which we had persistently denied, namely, that we intend to discriminate against certain people (we presume, on the grounds of race, color, religion, or ideological convictions). It was pointed out to the Council that any organization or group has to exclude some people; at least it has to exclude those who do not at all share its aims, or those who are incapable of meeting the minimum requirements. Discrimination per se, that is, without pejorative connotations, is neither legally nor morally reprehensible. We therefore requested the Council to clarify their contention that we did not deserve recognition on the ground that we were a discriminatory group. We want ed to know on what ground we were deemed to discriminate but should not. The Council rejected our plea for enlightenment.


(2) The Council hardly considered what we presented to them in our constitution. Our membership clause reads:

"Membership of the Association shall be open to African and Afro-American students currently enrolled at Harvard and Radcliffe. This clause, as we see it, is a purely inclusive statement. We cannot see how the Council had read it to exclude all other people. We had no need for the negative way of constituting our Association. We merely stated that African and Afro-American students may become members. We did not go further to say that any other person cannot. If the Council were trying to read our hearts, they should at least recognize that they may have read them incorrectly. And besides, the Council should be concerned with our constitution as presented and not with what we may or may not be thinking. This slip on the part of the Council evidently derives from a tradition of thinking in terms of races.

(3) Finally, we are not aware that the Council is authorized to pass any new legislation with regard to student organizations at Harvard. This, we understand, is the sole prerogative of the Faculty Committee on Student Activities. We have confirmed with the Dean's Office that there is no law which forbids campus organization from discriminating against persons or groups of persons on any ground. Thus even if the Council's claim that we are a discriminatory group (in a morally and institutionally reprehensible sense of the word) were true or proveable, the Council is still not right to reject our application by taking for granted a law or rule which has not been enacted by the Faculty committee or the University. In saying this, we are assuming that the actions of the Council in such matters are not utterly random or unprincipled, but are supposed to be based on the laws and regulations of the University. Our association, of course, recognizes the power of the Faculty committee to enact any rule at any time and to make it applicable even in retrospect. However, we cannot see how we could be condemned on the basis of a law which has not been enacted, and which the Council has not, to date, recommended that it be enacted.

Suggestions have been made to us even from very unexpected sources that we word our membership clause in such a way that we do not appear to discriminate against any people while still reserving our power to actually do so safely. We have rejected such suggestions on several grounds: First, our constitution is not groping for a way to discriminate meanly against any person or group of persons. Secondly, we are not trying to circumvent a law which we know does not exist. Finally, even if the law did exist, and even if our constitution did actually infringe such a law, we would still refuse, on principle, to use subterfuge to gain our short-term objective. Not only do we consider this as moral turpitude and a criminal mentality, but we and all our peoples know from experience that this attitude has worked for our humiliation for too long, and if it is perpetuated it may well lead to human antagonisms of unprecendented virulence.

We have been reminded several times that there are organizations on our campus which have "catch" phrases to legalize them and yet which can attain pure exclusiveness. The members of our Association refuse entirely to recognize such fine distinctions. A group is either discriminatory (on certain reprehensible grounds) or it is not. Such discrimination concealed under a ruse is still discrimination. It is even more than that, for is also hypocritical and criminal.

Reiterated Desire

We hereby reiterate our desire for official recognition and we ask that you give due and unbiased thought to our aims and organization as expressed in our constitution. If these are in accordance with the stipulations of the University, we ask to be accredited. We realize that it is University policy to encourage students to form associations, clubs, etc. when the students see a need for such organizations, and when they can meet the basic requirements of the University. We have been asked repeatedly why we don't join other already existing organizations and dispense with the proposed Association. This question is completely unnecessary. In the first place, some of our members are also individual members of other groups, and our Association does not at all discourage its members from joining whatever other groups they want to join. Secondly, the University has never given the impression that there are now so many worth-while organizations that new ones have become superfluous, irrespective of their merit.

Our association is a purely voluntary one. It is true that, like other campus groups, we shall want to have an active and respectable membership, yet we unequivocally recognize the private right of any person, member or non-member, to agree or disagree with our aims and policies. If the Faculty committee feels that these aims are not reprehensible, we are confident that they will vote unanimously to recognize the Harvard Association of African and Afro-American Students. Dnoneze Martin Anochle   President, Association of   African and Afro-American Students.