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Undergraduates Protest Decision to Fire Alpert

By Joseph M. Russin

A small group of students met in Leverett House Old Library Wednesday night to initiate the first and to date only public protest of the dismissal of Richard Alpert, former assistant professor of Clinical Psychology, for giving hallucinogenic drugs to undergraduates.

When the session concluded, less than a dozen students signed a letter to President Pusey and the Corporation which protested both the firing of Alpert and the rule he was charged with breaking.

While admitting the University had a "right" to fire Alpert, the students said "Harvard has lost not only a brilliant teacher whose interest in his students is a quality too rare here, but also a man of unusual courage and vision. We as students protest this loss."

The letter protested the action "all the more because it was incurred under the aegis of an administrative rule which denies the student the right to decide for himself in what way he will participate in scientific research and which denies the teacher the right to act in the way which he believes to be in the best educational interest of a student."

Calling Harvard's "timidity ... unworthy of a university which claims to encourage free inquiry and exploration," the letter charged that the Administration "reacted with undue alarm to the widespread public controversy" over the drugs.

When he announced Alpert's dismissal, President Pusey noted that the University was not against research with the drugs, but objected to Alpert's disregard of a University ruling.

The writers of the letter, Lisa C. Bieberman '63 and John S. James '63, had originally wanted to hold a protest march, but decided to have an indoor meeting when they failed to get permission to parade on public ground.

Although he admitted that he did not know if Alpert was guilty of the violation, James said Alpert probably would not have been fired if the University's "attitude" toward the drug research had been more sympathetic.

James said that there was probably more to the dismissal than the announced charge, as "a lot more usually goes on than what is published."

Some of the students at the meeting said they thought Alpert would have been fired eventually, and that he seemed to be asking for the action. Last summer some undergraduates were in Mexico with Alpert and Timothy Leary in a group experiment with the drugs.

After the meeting the group went to I.F.I.F.'s new headquarters in Cambridge to continue their discussion

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