The November Action Coalition (NAC) has obtained a copy of a private memorandum to M. I. T. President Howard W. Johnson which-the NAC claims-proves that M. I. T.'s plans to convert its laboratories from war-related research are "nothing but a fraud."
However Charles L. Miller, recently-appointed directod of M. I. T.'s Instrumentation Laboratory and author of the memo, last night strongly denied the claims of the radicals. "The interpretation given by the coalition is totally wrong," Miller said. "Time and our future actions will show how wrong."
The memo concerns a $1 million Ford Foundation grant soon to be announced by Johnson for use in 'converting' the labs.
"The announcement of this grant for an illusory conversion is the apotheosis of M. I. T.'s attempt to head off our movement." an NAC spokesman said. "Miller himself is down on the idea, both because he thinks it's a sop to radical students and because it is financially unfeasible."
Miller began his memo to Johnson by pointing out that the Urban Systems Laboratory (USL), M. I. T.'s main center of civilian research, faces a $500,000 shortage in planning for the immediate future.
"In the face of an impending phase-out of the USL faculty and student support," the memo reads. "it appears that a $1 million Ford Foundation grant to 'convert' the Special Labs will be announced and in force."
"I anticipate that faculty and student reaction to this combination of events will be very negative and hostile." Miller continued. "It will be interpreted by many as a wrong ordering of priorities by the administration and as a reaction to radical students"
M. I. T. has never said officially said that it would 'convert' the Instrumentation Labs. But the university has taken steps in recent months to counter radical criticisms of the war research, including the firing of Charles S. Draper, previous head of the I-labs.
"The unofficial official line-to damp radical action-has been that Draper was fired because he was against conversion, and that Miller was a nice liberal coming in to oversee conversion," the NAC spokesman said. "But Miller's memo makes it clear that he thinks conversion's a fraud."
"The November Action Coalition has revealed three things," Miller said last night. "That we have financial problems at M. I. T.: that efforts to solve these problems have been dishonestly misinterpreted: and that a thief has stolen a private communication."
"My memo to President Johnson discussed one of a number of short-term problems," Miller added. "There is more than one approach to the basic objective of conversion."
He said that M. I. T. was trying to achieve a "sense of balance" between civilian and Pentagon supported research.
"In the past few weeks. I have become painfully aware of the very serious pressure and morale problems associated with the Instrumentation Lab," the memo ends, "While wise use of Ford funds can help ease some of these, I feel it would be a mistake to ignore the critical needs of USL while giving a misleading illusion of 'converting' the I-lab."
The memo was cireulated at a news conference yesterday afternoon by members of NAC. a coaliton of radical groups planning militant action-possibly an obstructive picket line-against the Instrumentation Labs on Nov. 4.
Spokesmen at the press conference said that the letter had been received anonymously through the mail.
Bat one NAC leader admitted later that it had been taken from Johnson's office.