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A small group of undergraduates has launched a self-proclaimed "Conspiracy Against Harvard Education" to protest the "huge gaps" in education at the University.
The group of eight--whose statement appears on page three of this morning's CRIMSON--points to students feelings of "discontent, alienation, and unfulfillment" and attributes them to the fact that "students are serving the University's needs, without the University responding to serve theirs."
As a first step, the groups has called for a "Festival of Life" to take place in Harvard Yard after Spring break. "The Festival will be a celebration of life, a celebration of learning, a chance for people to step back from the routines of their lives here and think about the way things might be," the statement says.
Among the members of the conspiracy are James M. Fallows '70, president of the CRIMSON Nicholas Gagarin '70, executive editor of the CRIMSON, Andre S. Bishop '70, president of the Harvard Dramatic Club, and Richard E. Hyland '69-3, Dunster House representative to SFAC.
Gagarin--who, together with Timothy Carden '71, organized the group--said yesterday that a "total reorientation" of Harvard education was at stake. "Over the past year a lot of things have happened at Harvard," he said. "I think they've all pointed toward what we're trying to do. We want people to draw back from specific issues and ask some fundamental questions about education itself."
Although the Conspiracy's statement does not mention King Collins by name, it implicitly dissociates itself from him. "We are not going to disrupt anyone," the statement reads. "We are not going to insult anyone."
"Collins was asking some important questions," Carden said yesterday, "but he had a lot of strikes against him from the start. His group was totally alien to Harvard, and its only tactic was to shout at people. There were so few of them that when nobody followed, they lost a lot of their cool."
"We don't have all the answers," Carden went on. "Maybe we don't have any answers. But you don't get answers until you start asking questions."
Explaining the proposed festival, Carden said, "What we want to do is create an environment in which people can meet and talk to each other. Sure, professors have office hours--but that's a very marginal commitment to students. It's hard for them to communicate with us as equals."
The outline of the festival requests professors to cancel their classes and join their students in the Yard. "We hope that professors will come and talk with students," the statement says, "rather than talking, as lectures force them to do, at students."
Anne de St. Phalle '70, one of the Conspiracy's two Radcliffe members, conceded that some aspects of the statement were vague. "But that's not important;" she said, "in fact, it's good. All we know right now is that the energy for change at Harvard is tremendous. It's flowing all around. We want to bring some of it together. Details will take care of themselves--we want, on one level, just to hold out to people a vision of education as it might be. The education we've got right now is in bad shape. You might call it sterile."
The Conspiracy will focus its initial efforts on getting support from the Harvard community. "Petitions are going out today," Gagarin said. "We'd like to be able to run another ad next week--with 500 signatures on it. Despite everything King Collins had against him, he made a lot happen. A group of us could do a lot more."
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