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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

What of the Night?

By Michael Lerner

Radcliffe has taken a much-needed step by contracting with Harvard for University police protection. Although many of the details of the new system have not yet been specified, it is apparent that it will greatly improve both the quality and quantity of protection afforded Cliffies. Under the plan, incidents of attacks on streets surrounding the quadrangle should be substantially reduced.

Unlike watchmen, the police will not have assigned beats, but will be free to patrol those areas which prove particularly troublesome. In addition, the police will have a man on duty in a central location 24 hours a day, and are trained to use guns. The present watchmen do not carry guns. Instituting a comparable system at Radcliffe--training men and supervisors--would cost about $50,000. During the past year, the watchmen have spent 90 per cent of their time outside, so the three men being retained by the Cliffe will be adequate to patrol inside the dormitories. For outside protection, there is little doubt that trained policemen will be superior to the watchmen.

In making such an improvement, however, Radcliffe cannot simply ignore the moral and legal issues involved. The nine watchmen currently employed have a contract which does not expire until next June. Six of these men were suddenly informed this fall that their services would no longer be required after October 17. The union has brought the matter to arbitration, but arbitration is a long and complicated process. Radcliffe has found other college jobs for three of the men involved, and rather proudly points out that "that only leaves three." But even if only one man were involved, and even if he were not between 55 and 60, the college should find it hard to justify breaking a formal contract and dropping an employee in the middle of October. Radcliffe has done a fine job in increasing the protection in and around its living area. It would be a shame to sully this step by implementing it with a complete disregard for the people directly involved. The college should at least provide employment until next June--with comparable wages--for the three remaining workers.

Paradoxically, the government welcomed defeat in two of those three states, for the defeats meant the end of two charismatic political forces--Lacerda and Magalhaes--who were attacking the government "Revolution" from the inside.

Like many revolutionaries on both sides of the political spectrum, those running the Brazilian government prefer to deal with dangers from within their own party first.

Only in Goias was the government clearly defeated. There it wanted to win. It had put its prestige at stake by appointing a new state administration a few months ago because of unrest. The Democratic National Union candidate was defeated by a close but decisive margin.

What do the elections mean?

The first thing of great significance is that they took place at all. The Castello Branco government, for all its militant anti-communism, is sincerely anxious to be democratic. There were many pretexts the government could have chosen for cancelling the elections. When the results became known, the government could well have cancelled the results.

But the victorious candidates were assured that they would be allowed to take office.

Second, the elections suggest that if a government-backed candidate runs against an opposition candidate for the presidency in 1966, the government candidate will lose. The gubernatorial elections did not show that the government was highly unpopular, nor did they show that the extreme left was highly popular; they did show that a left-of-center coalition has more popular support than the government.

What Castello Branco is reportedly trying to do is to find a candidate, conceivably from the opposition Social Democratic Party, who could run on a Social Democratic-National Democratic Union ticket and create a great centrist force that could crush Lacerda or any similar candidate on the right, and whomever is put up by the radical left. Whether Castello Branco can achieve this or not is open to question.

If he cannot, he has two choices. One is to allow an election, hoping for the best. The other is to use some gimmick of indirect elections, based on an electoral college system, to install whatever successor he chooses.

The right-wing military leaders (known as the linha dura) who support Branco do not like the first solution, in which a candidate avowedly hostile to the "Revolution" they helped make might win power. They do not even like Castello Branco's plan to find a centrist candidate. They want either a charismatic right-wing leader strong enough to stand a chance in an open election, or indirect elections with a controlled outcome. The man on a white horse is not yet visible.

Some of the conservatives who want indirect elections in order to insure continuation of the government "Revolution," point to the use of the electoral college system in the United States. Moderates argue that the electoral college system is responsive to the popular vote in the United States, while that which the conservatives call for would not be.

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