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ROTC at Harvard--The Fight This Fall

Faculty Meets Tomorrow To End the ROTC Morass

By James M. Fallows

When the current drive to change ROTC's status began here last fall, Harvard's crew was heading for the Olympic trials, Humphrey and Nixon were breezing into town in search of votes, and Jacqueline Kennedy was hinting that she might soon move to Greece.

Four months, one sit-in, and countless committee meetings have passed since then. And now the tortuous machinery of Harvard's academic bureaucracy has digested this fall's proposals and is finally ready to determine ROTC's fate.

When the Faculty meets Tuesday to vote on changes in the ROTC program, it will consider four motions that will be discussed in the special student convocation this afternoon:

* The SDS resolution--to be presented by Hilary Putnam, professor of Philosophy -- which calls for ROTC's complete expulsion from Harvard

* The SFAC resolution--presented by Rogers Albritton, professor of Philosophy--which asks the Faculty to remove ROTC's academic credit,

* The HUC resolution--to be introduced by Gen Ed director Edward T. Wilcox--which seeks essentially the same action as the SFAC motion.

* The CEP resolution--which will probably be presented by James Q. Wilson, professor of Government--which would force ROTC courses to reapply individually for credit through existing Harvard academic departments.

The collection of acronyms that surrounds the four resolutions gives a slight hint of the institutional maneuvering that has gone on all fall. And in each case, the goal of the committee meetings and the student petitions has been to gain a position on the Faculty docket. The reason that places on the docket have become so widely-sought is that only the Faculty can take any decisive action on ROTC; student groups like the HUC and the HRPC can debate and pass resolutions, but their action means little without Faculty concurrence. The separate paths that each of today's three resolutions has taken to get to the Faculty docket shows now the Byzantine innards of the decision-making process here can get bogged down.

Albritton's SFAC

The resolution that Albritton will present for the SFAC is the many-times-altered off-spring of a proposal that the HUC first came up with in early October. The HUC concluded that ROTC didn't deserve academic credit, and it proposed a four-point plan for trimming ROTC's privileges:

* withdrawing academic credit from all ROTC courses,

* removing corporation appointments from ROTC instructors,

* reducing ROTC's privileges to those of normal extracurricular organizations (including ending the rent-free use of Harvard Buildings), and

* eliminating ROTC course descripitions from the course catalogue.

But the HUC resolution proposal had no formal effect, of course; and so the HUC began to work for a place on the Faculty docket. The simplest way to get the resolution onto the floor of the Faculty was to find a Faculty member to sponsor it. Since the HUC, unlike SFAC, has no faculty members to do this as a matter of course, Wilcox later offered to introduce its resolution.

Though HUC members wanted to make sure that their resolution was on the docket, primarily as an effort to establish a precedent of regular Faculty consideration of such student resolutions, they also wanted to form a united front of student government groups favoring the withdrawal of credit. With this end in mind, HUC members appeared before SFAC in late October.

As the SFAC meetings continued into November, rumblings against ROTC began in two new areas--the CEP and the HRPC.

The CEP--the group that advises the Faculty on matters of academic policy--began its hearings on ROTC soon after SFAC did. HUC members realized the potential that the CEP offered: it was another channel to Faculty consideration, and if the CEP recommended with-drawing credit, the motion would stand a good chance of Faculty approval. But no immediate action was imminent from the CEP. As SFAC continued its debates--hearing first from HUC members, and then from ROTC students--the CEP quietly heard its own student testimony without announcing any conclusions.

HRPC Steps In

The next concrete steps came from the HRPC. After an audit of ROTC courses, the HRPC published a report on Nov. 17 calling for the end of ROTC's academic status. But while the HRPC report was similar to the HUC's in its conclusion--and in its lack of legal effect--it offered a far different basis for the attack on ROTC.

The HUC had claimed that ROTC courses didnt meet Harvard's standard academic criteria; because of their flabby content, the report said, the courses should be eliminated. But the HUC report--though not the HUC resolution--also said that the courses might reapply for credit if they changed their curricula. This loophole, was often overlooked in the subsequent debates over academic credit, but the CEP took up the notion several months later, using it as the basis for its recommendation.

The HRPC, however, didn't offer ROTC the same re-application option. The problem with ROTC, their report said, was that all the courses were externally controlled. Since Harvard lacked the same institutional control of ROTC courses that it demanded of all other academic courses--and since ROTC courses were avowedly pre-professional disciplines aimed at producing officers--the HRPC said that ROTC courses should be removed from the liberal arts curriculum at Harvard.

The differences between the HRPC and HUC position were blurred as both proposals moved into the SFAC. As the ROTC issue dragged on from one weekly SFAC meeting to the next, SFAC members decided to consider three new proposals: to get rid of ROTC altogether, to deny it credit, and to deny credit to all "non-academic courses"--including not only ROTC but also courses like Soc Rel 148.

Near the end of November, the SFAC considered the first of these proposals--total expulsion of ROTC. That motion was easily beaten down, and the focus of action shifted now to the SDS.

Throughout the fall, SDS had been circulating petitions and holding meetings on ROTC. Its position was clear: for moral and political reason, Harvard should refuse to allow ROTC on its campus. But SDS too lacked any formal vehicle to put its proposals before the Faculty. Then, on Nov. 20, SDS pulled a surprise move. As it became clear that the Faculty would consider some ROTC proposals in December, SDS announced that Hilary Putnam would present its case for total expulsion.

YPSL Referendum

SDS's tactic was quickly imitated by another group, the Young People's Socialist League (YPSL). Claiming that the SDS petition "violated the civil liberties" of the students who wanted to participate in ROTC, the YPSL members proposed a student referendum on whether ROTC courses should have credit. The referendum would not be binding on the Faculty, and its alternatives would not include the SDS demand to expel ROTC. Like SDS, YPSL got a Faculty member to present its proposal at the Faculty meeting; Seymour Martin Lipset, professor of Government, revealed it would have a place on the Dec. 3 docket.

One week before the scheduled Dec. 3 Faculty meeting, the SFAC finally held a vote. By a vote of 13 to 3, it passed the resolution that Albritton will present Tuesday. An amalgam of the HUC and HRPC plans, the SFAC resolution offers five steps for ending ROTC's academic status:

* denying academic credit to ROTC courses,

* removing appointments from the instructors,

* excising ROTC descriptions from the catalogues,

* ending rent-free building use, and

* giving Harvard scholarship money to any students who might lose their ROTC scholarships because of ROTC's changed status.

After the SFAC' decision, the December 3 Faculty meeting was ready to consider three proposals -- Putnam's, Lipset's, and SFAC's. The meeting came went, however, without voting on any of the resolutions. Instead, Faculty members argued that they had not had enough time to consider the alternatives. A special meeting was scheduled for Dec. 12 to vote on the three plans.

Before the Sit-in

Two important developments emerged in the days before the scheduled special meeting. After students had vainly tried to enter the Dec. 3 meeting. Dean Ford quietly affirmed the Faculty's conturies-old rule against student attendance. Ford's insistence on the rule, of course, was the prelude to the mammoth sit-in on Dec. 12.

But at the same time, the CEP was working frantically to came up with its own proposal on--ROTC. Through the fall, the CEP had heard testimony from nearly every group that had anything to do with ROTC. The HUC, the HRPC, and even ROTC cadets had spoken before the CEP; and only the Harvard Young Republicans claimed they had been left out. And despite the political nature of some of the testimony it had heard, the CEP was mainly interested in academic principles: whether ROTC courses deserved credit, and what effect the removal of credit would have on the ROTC program.

Three days before the Faculty meeting, the CEP held a special session to decide its recommendations. The resolution it produced was milder than SFAC's. Admitting that some ROTC courses might not meet current academic standards, the CEP said that all ROTC courses and professors should reapply for academic status through any of Harvard's existing departments.

"What Department?"

Widespread confusion followed as to what the real effect of the CEP resolution would be. Wilson hinted that the plan would be as effective as the SFAC's in ending credit. "What department would approve the courses?" he said. But Colonel Pell's reported comment that the CEP resolution "couldn't have pleased me more" cast doubt on its potential effect.

On the morning of the incident at Paine Hall, the chairmen of HRPC, HUC, and SFAC issued a joint statement, which asked that, if the Faculty was to the CEP proposal, it first amend it to preclude any course "whose primary purpose is the training of military officers," from receiving a department's stamp of approval.

The last minute proposal by the CEP was put on the December 12 docket along with the SFAC and SDS proposals. Other resolutions, including those by the HUC and Lipset, were sent to Faculty members as "supplementary material."

Uneasiness about the CEP proposal increased in January with the revelation of Colonel Pell's now-infamous memorandum to the CEP. On the day that the CEP has heard testimony from ROTC cadets, Pell had also given CEP members a long memorandum describing the national effect that removal of academic credit here would have. The reasoning Pell used was, ironically, the same that many ROTC opponents relied on: Harvard's national prestige made its decision vastly important, Pell said. Removing credit here might deal a widespread blow to ROTC programs across the country.

Edward T. Wilcox, the CEP's secretary, quickly denied that Pell's letter had any effect on the CEP's watering-down of the SFAC proposal. Most of the CEP members hadn't even bothered to read Pell's statement, Wilcox said; purely academic considerations determined the CEP's position.

The Paine Hall sit-in of Dec. 12, of course, effectively diverted any debate about ROTC for more than five weeks. As the various institutions--the SFAC, the HRPC, the HUC, the SDS, and the Faculty--turned their attention to issues of punishment and student participation, the question of ROTC's future disappeared temporarily.

But after disposing of Paine Hall punishments and inviting students to meetings, the Faculty was once again ready to take up ROTC. Obligingly shifting its ROTC discussion from Jan. 28--in the dead of exam period--to Feb. 4, the Faculty also arranged for a special student meeting today to discuss the proposals it will consider.

Where It Left Off

The Faculty takes up Tuesday just about where it left off at Paine Hall. The Lipset resolution has apparently been dropped, but the other three proposals will be discussed. Putnam's radical plea is conceded little chance of success; the question is whether the SFAC (or the HUC) proposal can defeat the more moderate CEP plan. Two important questions will probably determine the result:

* whether the CEP plan will have the same practical effect as the SFAC's--ending academic credit for Pentagon-controlled ROTC courses. If Wilson and Wilcox can convince the Faculty that their re-application scheme will pose an effective bar to ROTC credit, they may win backing from liberals who would otherwise support SFAC.

* what the removal of credit--either by the CEP or the SFAC plan--will mean for the future of ROTC programs here. Although most of the Faculty seems willing to strip ROTC of its privileged academic credentials, some might hesitate if they think that doing so would mean the end of the program here. Colonel Pell claims that the Army cannot continue ROTC if its instructors are not guaranteed Corporation appointments. But other professors have said that if the Army is as interested in the publicity value of its program here as Pell says it is, it might make exceptions and retain the program.

The student convocation will be from 4-6 p.m. this afternoon in Sanders Theatre. The Faculty is meeting there tomorrow afternoon. Student attendance is by invitation only.

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