To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
Your editorial on "Parietal Rules" (CRIMSON, October 1) has the good effect of sharpening up our discussions of the basis of our regulations. I hope the College may have a full and thoughtful exchange of ideas on this complicated matter in your letter columns. In this letter I should like to comment briefly on a number of points made in your editorial and thus perhaps make more clear some of my own thinking. I am the more interested to write because you have called my thoughts "dangerous and wrongheaded."
First I must enter a substantial correction of fact. Your editorial says that Dean Watson and I "are wrong in thinking that most students use their rooms during parietal hours for sexual intercourse." New the truth is that we have never thought that, and we do not think it now, and we have never said that we did. Crimson editorial writers should read your own news columas; on September 24 and 26 CRIMSON news stories reported us just right. We believe that the great majority of students behave well during parietal hours. But we have been badly shaken up recently by some covere vislations of our rules and of decent standards of behavior. And when we talked to the students lived of we found a prevailing attitude that what west on in the rooms during social hours was none of the College's business. We are troubled that the social hours are often loosely administered and often not respected, and that the College itself seems to be contributing to an atmosphere of laxness and "don't-care." So, we are not finding fault with the large majority of Harvard students. We are worried that the serious misbehavior of a few, and the general laxness in administration may bring the whole system into disrepute, to the disadvantage of all.
Now I want to agree whole-heartedly with a main point in the editorial, that the present social hours do provide the chance for men and women students to be together and talk together and enjoy each other's company, in a quiet, private place, and at no cost. It was this pleasant and constructive view of things which the Masters had in mind and presented to the Faculty in 1952, when our present rules were adopted.
Trouble has arisen because what was once considered a pleasant privilege has now, for a growing number of students, come to be considered a license to use the college rooms for wild parties or for sexual intercourse. And the claim is advanced, more often each passing year, that since a man's room is his castle, the College has no concern for what goes on there.
Your editorial moves into this field by saying, as I understand your argument, that the College should think of freedom of sexual intercourse as being analogous to freedom of religion and freedom of speech and so, just as the College would not try to shape or control a student's religious or political beliefs, we should not attempt to shape or control sexual behavior, or attitudes toward sexual behavior. May I suggest a certain inadequacy in this analogy. Freedom of religion and politics are highly regarded and indeed protected by law in our society, for the good reason that across the centuries mankind's experience has been that freedom of the individual in these areas is healthy and necessary in human affairs. Sexual intercourse, on the other hand, is restricted both by law and the sanctions of the moral code, for the good reason that unrestricted sexual behavior has always led, and still leads, to undesirable consequences for society and for the individuals involved.
Our discussion then reaches the question whether the College should have any concern to help shape its students' thinking about their behavior in an area restricted by the law and the moral codes of society. Your answer, I take it, would be, no; for you say that, "each person must define his own morality on the basis of his own experience," and the College would do best to get out of the way, allow certain freedoms, and have students learn to use freedom responsibility "by having it." On this matter I think you are in good part right, and partly wrong. I agree with you that the College should give its students as much freedom as possible to make their own decisions and learn from the results. But there are limits. You will recall that the College does not permit full freedom of personal experimentation with the moral system in such matters as cheating, or plagiarism, or lying, or stealing. We have the view that the experience of past generations, as set forth in our moral codes, should be communicated firmly and unmistakably to new generations of students. There is just too much tragedy and waste for society and the individual if each generation has to learn all these lessons by hard knocks rather than by instruction. I would have to agree that relationships between the sexes are changing rapidly, and that this fact has to affect all our thinking about the problem of sexual intercourse. But, even so, I have to believe that the experience of post generations of mankind on sexual intercourse, as presented in our moral codes, has validity for college students today, and it is the duty of the College to make the code known and understood. It is certainly a failure on the part of the College to create a situation in which students feel there
I was taken aback by your opinion that "as long as a student adheres to certain necessary rules of order, his moral code is his own business." If I hear you aright, you are saying, as long as a man strictly obeys the law his attitude and moral values are his own affair and of no concern to others. I suppose you are aware that this principle, extended into adult behavior, would destroy the basic of civilized and professional life, which is, of course, based mainly on moral principle and not just upon regard for the law. We are dealing here with the difference between the shyster and the moral man. If a man regards only the law, and not the moral order, what has be then to do with intellectual honesty, courage, loyalty, faithfulness, forbearance, kindness, courtesy? The fact is, in civilized and professional life a man's moral code and attitudes are the necessary concern of every human being with whom he has contact. If you are desperately and intricately ill, your doctor is not legally bound to consult a specialist, but you are confident that he is a moral enough man to do so if be in is doubt.
Finally, you observe, "parietal rules should not be discussed in moral terms," but rather just as social rules "instituted to preserve order and decorum in the Houses." I surely wish that you were right about this; and you would be right, too, except that the present set of paristal rules is now producing a succession of serious violations, and a system of attitudes about sexual behavior which are not only distressing in themselves but promise to move us closer and closer to outright scandal. So we reach a point where we must discuss parietal rules in moral terms.
I submit that when the CRIMSON seeks to persuade us that freedom of sexual intercourse stands even with freedom of religion and freedom of speech as a great moral value in our society the time has come to cry halt. John U. Monro Dean of Harvard College