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Balancing Act


THE Council of Deans failed to sort out any of the tangles in Harvard's television policy this week. The Administration's caution toward the medium is understandable and so is its unwillingness to set down a dogma on what can and cannot be televised. But by retaining the shaky criterion of "balance," the University has left itself open to a repeat of the flap over January's teach-in along with the inevitable charges of censorship when a particular event is declared to be "unbalanced."

One University official hinted that the "balance" rule will not be enforced with mathematical precision. A Vietnam teach-in might be acceptable if for every speaker advocating immediate withdrawal another supported a less radical solution. Or "balance" could mean a question period to insure that the televised event did not turn into an uninterrupted harangue.

Even with generous qualifications like these, a policy that insists on "balanced" television presentations is at best illogical. As in its decision not to publish J. D. Watson's The Double Helix, the University is confusing an expression of opinion coming from this campus with a statement of policy bearing the official Harvard seal.

PRESIDENT Pusey repeated over and over at the Student-Faculty Advisory Council meeting that the University qua University should not take stands so as to preserve the right of individuals and subgroups within the University to take stands as they see fit. The criterion of "balance" contradicts that belief. It puts the University in the indefensible role of deciding which stands are fit to reach the outside world.

There should be limits on the televising of University events. The University is right to keep commercial television off the campus; only educational programs should be permitted. Furthermore, no program should be televised without the consent of its sponsors and participants--who certainly have the right to direct a program exclusively at the University community if they so choose. The University's own policy should be open, leaving censorship to the sponsors and educational television programmers. If the University has any confidence in the triumph of right thinking, it should not worry excessively about the dangers of a one-sided teach-in.

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