That Harvard Scandal

The first sentence of Dean Monro's oft quoted but little understood letter to the CRIMSON on parietal rules said: "Your editorial on 'Parietal Rules' (CRIMSON, October 1) has the good effect of sharpening up our discussions of the basis of our regulations." Dean Monro felt that "we must discuss parietal rules in moral terms." The CRIMSON, on the contrary, felt and still maintains that "as long as a student adheres to certain necessary rules of order, his moral code is his own business," and not that of University Hall; parietal rules should derive from the need of student for an atmosphere in which they can study. Because extension of parietal hours to midnight on Friday and 2 a.m. on Saturday night is consistent with this atmosphere and fills a strong social need, the CRIMSON repeats its original proposal.

But this disagreement aside, both Dean Monro and the CRIMSON desired an honest, public discussion in well considered language. The CRIMSON has long sought frank statements from administrators on parietals in order to create a dialogue based on real issues. This Fall, the deans have expressed a desire to discuss parietals, so that the rules, actual or modified, might be better enforced. By airing the desires of students, faculty members, and administrators, the CRIMSON has hoped to facilitate finding a practical solution to parietal problems that is maximally beneficial to all, and possibly rational.

This purpose was ill served by the phrases which cried "Scandall" in Dean Monro's letter. His waving the bloody shirt triggered a press scandal which has confused discussion. Taken out of context, phrases like "license to use the college rooms for wild parties or for sexual intercourse," "unrestricted sexual behavior," and "closer and closer to outright scandal," are simply inflammatory. They suggest wrongly that wild parties run rampant and Harvard; Harvard students know how rare such parties are.

The Boston press was sure to take these phrases out of context and use them to inflame. It did. The stories in the Boston and national press fabricated scandal from the threat of scandal in Dean Monro's letter. Such massive background noise makes sensible discussion of attitudes toward parietals even more difficult.

Those, including the CRIMSON, who want to clarify the rationale of parietal rules, hope that Dean Monro did not intend to create a press furor by the way he phrased parts of his letter.

But now that the tempest has come, and largely gone, two dangers must be avoided. First, no attempt should be made to exploit the general excitement as a lever, either to sway the Faculty which retains final control, or to stimulate custodial employees in the Houses to invade students' privacy. The inevitable barrage of letters from University alumni and donors should be allowed to coerce no one.

The second, though less likely, possibility is that Faculty opinion will be irrationally swayed by the press furor. One can only hope that in any Faculty vote, what is irrelevant will be recognized as such. As Professor Galbraith has it, "rules need only reflect the special requirements of the academic community--the quiet, good order and opportunity for undisturbed sleep that facilitate reflection and study. No effort need be made or should be made to protect indivividuals from the consequences of their own errors, indiscretions or passion." Perhaps when the College Deans recognize, in their practice if not their preachments, that such is the proper role o rules, further discussion of the rules can cease.