To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
The letter from Master Gill in Wednesday's CRIMSON was disturbing. I have been involved in the work of the HUC and I will continue to be for the upcoming year. So I am one of the individuals who has been presenting student opinion through what Master Gill might call the "ordinary channels of discussion and persuasion."
I agree with Master Gill that violent methods of changing or influencing Harvard policy are not beneficial to the University but only disrupt communications. I think there are many students on the HUC, SFAC, and HRPC like myself who have never been in favor of violent methods. Nevertheless, I think we are upset at what may seem to be a dangerous trend concerning the manner in which change comes about at Harvard.
When I look back over the past year and a half, there are two or three notable examples of this trend. The establishment of the SFAC came about as a result of Dow. Yet I can remember reading past minutes of the HUC meetings and listening to the discussions of that council during the fall of last year where a tremendous concern was demonstrated for Harvard's relationship to society. The HUC never got much encouragement or response from the administration about proposals and concern the HUC had expressed on matters relating to Harvard's position in the society.
This fall, the HUC recommendation and ostensible manifestations of concern about the decision making process at Harvard received virtually no reaction from administration or faculty. This lack of reaction caused many of the members to advocate more radical tactics of approach. Perhaps this problem is difficult to solve, but it seems that sometime, when there is a reaction to problems which occur, this reaction comes too late and it comes at a time when, if the problem is not recognized, there will be confrontation.
I think it would be worthwhile for all of us to discover if this trend which I have mentioned is more than theory. It indicates that confrontation or violence has, in the past year or two, been a significant element of change. It may also imply that presently, despite the channels of communication, there is not the proper kind of reaction to student concerns which facilitates reasonable discussion and peaceful change. When students see that violence seems necessary or see that it has had success in changing things, it is natural for some to utilize that kind of method. Perhaps the Ad Board ought to consider if there is such a trend and the effect it might have had in causing students to take the action they did.
The Ad Board and Master Gill may feel that nothing else could cause this violent tactic other than the rashness and immaturity of students. One might consider that there can never be an excuse for violence. But I think there is an explanation. I feel that there are important reasons why students approach change violently. If the Ad Board, administration, and faculty attempt to understand the fact that many students feel that change will only be produced by violence and attempt to discover why students feel that way, the Paine sit-in will be put in its proper perspective.
Master Gill concludes that those involved in the sit-in "have attacked the concept of reasoned discussion on which this university is founded and for which it exists. In this instance, their offense against the laws of the university is even more deeply an offense against its spirit." Master Gill expresses a principle which finds violence and offense against the law detrimental to the university community and contrary to the basic precepts of Harvard. For me, that is a principle which is difficult to disagree with. However, punishment would never be a problem if we could feel justified in exercising it on principles alone. Circumstances give, in reality, to every principle its distinguishing color, discriminating effect, and unique application. John D. Hanify '71