(The following is the opinion of a minority of the CRIMSON editorial board:)
Frustrated by a war they despise but cannot end, about 300 students clogged the first floor of Mallinckrodt Hall Wednesday, where a Dow Chemical Company recruiter was interviewing Harvard students. The demonstrators halted the interviews and detained the Dow representative against his will for seven hours.
The demonstartors were symbolically protesting against America's so-called war machine and against Dow, which supplies most of the napalm used in Vietnam. But the protest was irrelevant and inappropriate since a change in Dow's policies will not stop the war or even obstruct the use of napalm. If Dow suddenly refused to manufacture napalm, there are dozens of companies that would vie for the government contract to carry on production.
If the demonstration were merely an irrelevant, isolated incident, it could be dismissed without too much difficulty. But unfortunately it reflects a shift in the protest movement away from rational dissent, and into the realm of resistance and violence.
Most of the demonstrators probably would have been content with picketing or some other form of non-obstructive protest. That would have been acceptable. But some of the leaders were determined to take more radical action. There is nothing sacrosanct about this country's laws, but only a transcendent moral issue can justify their violation. The Administration's policy in Vietnam may be futile and indefensible, but it is not so immoral as to justify the obstruction of an individual's right of free speech and movement.
And even if the Administration is acting immorally in Vietnam, the traditional, legal methods of protest and persuasion are far from bankrupt. Cambridge's November 7th ballot will contain a resolution opposing the war in Vietnam, and many anti-war advocates are campaigning for the resolution. An increasing number of Congressmen and Senators have abandoned their pro-Administration viewpoints. And the latest Gallup Poll indicates that 46 per cent of the population now believes it was a mistake to become involved in Vietnam.
The willingness of Mallinckrodt protestors to take rash action may demonstrate the intensity of their convictions, but at the same time it hampers the efforts of rational critics of the war who are making progress without violating the law. Disgust is the inevitable public reaction to extra-legal protest which infringes on the rights of others. And it lends cerdibility to right-wing charges against the peace movement.
By not taking severe action against Wednesday's leaders, the Harvard Administration can keep the anti-war sentiment from turning into a student-power issue. The Administration should, however, condemn the demonstration in principle while remaining flexible in handing out punishment. To prevent another incident when the CIA recruiters arrive next week, the University should warn the Mallinckrodt leaders that another violation would result in immediate punishment. If anti-war students believe that their cause justifies disruptive action, they should be prepared to suffer the consequences--and not expect the University to shield them.
The leaders of Wednesday's demonstration should realize that many of the students who supported their action had no intention of violating the law. The 400 bursar's cards which were handed to the Deans represent sympathy with the anti-war cause, but not necessarily endorsement of the tactics employed at Mallinckrodt. There is a significant difference between demonstrators who are so intense in their self-righteousness that they will stop at nothing in their struggle against the war, and those who wish to demonstrate with more moderation and self-restraint.
The SDS Executive Committee, like most of the students who participated in the protest, expected no more than picketing. But the event fell under the control of a few individuals who used it for their own purposes and knew exactly what they were doing.
The demonstration was self-indulgent, irrelevant, and counterproductive. But if the Administration adopts a flexible response, and if anti-war protestors resist the irrational action that some spokesmen are urging then potentially damaging incidents can probably be avoided in the future.
Boisfeuillet Jones Jr.; Gerald M. Rosberg; Paul J. Corkery; Glenn A. Padnick; Robert P. Marshall Jr.; Gabriel M. Gesmer; Linda J. Greenhouse; John F. Seegal; William R. Galeota Jr.; Timothy Crouse; James M. Fallows; Richard R. Edmonds; Richard D. Paisner; Kerry Gruson.