SDS-- Harvard's New Left--Feels 'Underprivileged' In Generation Which Prizes Making Own Decisions

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The problem is that consensus arises only when the issue is personal and emotional. The injustice of the Southern racial system or napalm bombs falling on South Vietnamese villages invokes immediate indignation, while the many important questions of urban renewal, for instance, call for more cautious politics. The consensus theory thus imposes a limit on the number of concerns upon which a New Left group can focus. The young Democrats (YD's), by contrast, were able to discuss such issues as foreign aid and birth control as well as the standard SDS topics of Civil Rights and Vietnam during the current year.

The New Leftists, in a number of ways, are probably more conservative than the YD's. Their program of developing the political consciousness of local groups through community projects seems closer to Goldwater than to Johnson. Although SDS has tried to conduct its protest of the war through the education of local groups, the protest over foreign policy represents an aberration from the normal scope of SDS community politics. And above all, SDS has failed to face the real issue--the contradiction between the instability of participatory politics and the need to maintain a consistant foreign policy in the nuclear era.

The question which liberals most often ask is, what will become of SDS members after they leave the University. Will they flock to the suburbs like their parents, as Kenneth Kenniston predicts, or will they become full-fledged radicals? Ansara suspects that many New Leftists will enter political life. The others will be "politically and socially active in addition to their professions." Ansara foresees a class of lawyers and doctors motivated by social concern rather than economic values who will help organize community projects wherever they may be living. These people, others maintain, will opt for the city instead of the suburb, for their entire philosophy rests on a heightened degree of contact among social groups which only the city can provide.

Berkeley vs. Harvard

Another question often raised involves the differences between the New Left at Harvard and other protest groups throughout the country. Why, in short, has there been no Free Speech Movement at Harvard as there was at Berkeley, or no sit-in over university draft policy like the one at Chicago last month? Ansara sees Harvard SDS as "more a political group and less concerned with personal struggles to define a way of life." In addition, the New Leftists at Harvard are beginning to view themselves as "organizers, not protesters." In February, for example, a war pro- test scheduled for the Square was cancelled at the last minute due to questions about its "effectiveness."

The contrast between New Left politics at Harvard and Berkeley is probably best explained by an article by Reginald E. Zelnick in the May-June issue of Dissent. Zelnick finds Berkeley a university without status compared to Eastern Ivy schools. Students freshly-arrived at Berkeley find little difference between the college and that high-school. The Berkeley student feels immediately equal to his university; entering Harvard students are almost certain to be awed. The traditions of Harvard, in effect, secure its tranquility.

This very point came into perspective at a recent Leverett House Junior-Senior dinner during a speech by Archibald MacLeish, Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory, Emeritus. MacLeish pointed to the other senior faculty members at the head table, such as Mark DeWolfe Howe and Howard Manford Jones, and called for a return to the traditional Harvard values. He derided the concept of the University as a vocational school and insisted upon education for its own sake. Many present observed that MacLeish was making the same demands as Mario Savio and the other leaders of the Free Speech Movement. Ironically, senior faculty members must lecture their students against "professionalism" at Harvard, while just the opposite is true at Berkeley.


SDS has had squabbles with the Harvard Administration, although they have always remained on a distinctly political level. When, for example, the Administration announced it would supply class rankings in accord with a Selective Service request, SDS quickly circulated a petition calling for a referendum on proposal to substitute "letters of good standing" for class ranksings in accord with a Selective Service request, SDS The of the referendum, a strictly political device, added respectability and force to the SDS demand, but the Administration has shelved the matter until next fall.

Harvard SDS, like its sister chapters elsewhere, wants a student voice in many other Administration decisions besides draft policy. SDS objects to what they call "sophisticated paternalism" whereby John U. Monro, as the Dean of Harvard College, acts as a mediator between different pressure groups within the University and makes the final decisions himself. Instead, the New Leftists would have Monro become "an initiator of discussion" who would administer whatever decisions the entire University community reached. In the SDS plan, faculty members would also play a larger role in University decision-making.

Some changes in this direction have taken place this year at Harvard. The Harvard Policy Committee, an undergraduate group which Monro helped form, has begun a plan to review every department, as well us to criticize the grading system and the faculty tenure system. Also a group of 25 students at the Medical School achieved their demand for an independent study program this Spring, while a similar number at the School of Education gained representation for students on two Faculty committees. These groups have started to acquire the "direct voice" in University policy which SDS insists on, which suggests that Harvard is more receptive to the New Left than many SDS members tend to think.

Still, SDS has added a needed dimension to Harvard politics. Although SDS may not display the breadth of concern which the Young Democrats or the Young Republicans do, it does consider its adopted issues with a depth the other groups lack. Also, in an age of increasing power for the Federal government, SDS does help redress the balance nicely with its emphasis on local activities.

Perhaps because SDS radicals and liberal groups operate on different assumptions, perhaps because of the nature of the topics they discuss, or possibly due to sheer personal dislike, no dialogue has yet evolved between SDS and the other political groups. Hopefully, as SDS becomes even more political next year and as they begin to find their place within the political spectrum at Harvard, such a dialogue may begin. If that happens, SDS may soon bring its position more in line with conventional views, while other, more traditional people may come to appreciate both the existence and the relevance of the New Left