Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor Talks Justice, Civic Engagement at Radcliffe Day


Church Says It Did Not Authorize ‘People’s Commencement’ Protest After Harvard Graduation Walkout


‘Welcome to the Battlefield’: Maria Ressa Talks Tech, Fascism in Harvard Commencement Address


In Photos: Harvard’s 373rd Commencement Exercises


Rabbi Zarchi Confronted Maria Ressa, Walked Off Stage Over Her Harvard Commencement Speech

Faculty Ponders Vietnam Position

By Jeffrey D. Blum and Ronald H. Janis

Two issues are on the docket for today's special Faculty meeting: a non-binding resolution supporting the October 15 moratorium and a motion calling for immediate withdrawal from Vietnam.

The Faculty probably will pass- without extensive opposition- the moratorium resolution, which will be proposed by Everett I. Mendelsohn, associate professor of the History of Science.

A group of at least 150 Faculty members, however, have stated that they will try to prevent the withdrawal motion from being voted upon during the regular Faculty meeting.

Robert Dorfman, professor of Economics and a leader of the group opposing a regular Faculty vote on withdrawal, said yesterday that a member of his group will ask the Faculty to recess during today's session and then hold a non-official convocation on the withdrawal motion.

"Preponderantly harm will come from putting the Faculty in a position where it will be forced to comment on a problem not directly related to the conduct of University business," Dorfman said.

John T. Edsall '23, professor of Biological Chemistry, who will introduce the withdrawal motion today, answered this line of reasoning last night. "The resolution is profoundly related to the business of the University- the Vietnam war has had a poisonous effect on U.S. life in general and University life in particular," he said.

Effects on Society

Edsall added that he was not, however, introducing the motion primarily because of the war's effects on the University. "We are introducing the motion because of the broader evil effects that the war has inflicted on all U. S. society," he said.

"Generally I am deeply opposed to political motions, but Vietnam has had a more divisive effect on American life than anything since the Civil War," Edsall stated. "The circumstances are so extraordinary that I feel justified in taking this once-in-a-lifetime step."

Dorfman said that he hopes the convocation will result in the approval of some kind of withdrawal motion "voted upon and adopted by virtually all the members of the Faculty." Although Faculty members are free during a recess, he said he hopes they will remain in their seats and participate in the convocation. Dorfman said he will chair the convocation.

If the Faculty passed a regular resolution on withdrawal, it would be breaking the "tacit agreement between the University and the outside world," he added. Professors are insured great freedom of speech, but must not use that freedom "to make the University a vehicle of promulgating one's own opinions," Dorfman stated.

He said that a convocation resolution supporting withdrawal would not violatethe "tacit agreement" because the public would be able to distinguish between an official act of the Faculty and a resolution passed by members of the Faculty.

"A Faculty vote on this issue will have other universities following our lead, thus seriously weakening the contract between universities and society," Dorfman said.

"Clearly situations do exist where it is necessary for the university to speak out on issues that do not directly relate to university affairs," Dorfman added. "The extermination of the Jews in Nazi Germany is one such example- that was such a hideous inequity that you have to overthrow the niceties. But that just isn't the case here."

Mark Ptashne, lecturer on Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and supporter of the withdrawal motion, said that Dorfman's distinction between Nazi Germany and Vietnam reveals that "we differ fundamentally over the importance of the war." He added that "the Germans also thought they had a contract not to speak out about the extermination of the Jews."

At an informal meeting with students at Dunster House last night, Dorfman discussed the propriety of a regular Faculty vote on withdrawal with Mare J. Roberts, teaching fellow in Economics and Social Studies, who wants the vote taken at the meeting.

"Is the urgency of speaking out about Vietnam so important that we will push Harvard out into the public fray?" Dorfman asked.

Roberts called the convocation idea "an elaborate charade," which would have the same "substantive political impact" as a regular vote. He added that the avoidance of a regular Faculty vote would, at the same time, "blunt the motion's moral thrust" and act as "a slap at student protest."

He stated that "We, the Faculty, demand, in these extraordinary times, to take a stand on the war." Adding that the University must stand for something, he said that "it is time for the Faculty to take moral leadership."

George B. Kistiakowsky, Abbott and James Lawrence Professor of Chemistry, said he had drafted an amendment to the motion which called for "the fastest possible withdrawal"- instead of "immediate withdrawal." But this reportedly was unsatisfactory to both liberals and conservatives, and be will not present the amendment.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.