WHEN STUDENTS occupy buildings, university administrators are required to make immediate decisions, in the hard light of public attention. Student militants make their demands "non-negotiable" to produce such a pressure situation. It is hoped that a circumstance of open confrontation will undercut the puppeteer control over college affairs to which administrators are accustomed. Such tactics often make it difficult for administrators to obscure the real meaning of protest issues by a calculated camouflage.
But when students couch their dissent in more limited terms, like sit-ins or petitions, administrators form The Committee To Investigate. The committee is established to allow those in charge to change the context of the argument. The issue will then be considered in their terms, not the protestors'.
It is by means of such a dynamic of co-optation that we have the Fainsod Committee on Faculty Decision-Making. The Committee's attenuated birth illustrates the consistency of the Harvard Administration's attempt to avoid radical issues.
Early last Fall, SDS focused its attention on the presence of ROTC at Harvard. As the New York Times pointed out in December. ROTC-graduated second lieutenants play a vital role in the Vietnam War. From a broader perspective, the U.S. military provides support for America's more refined imperialist presence in underdeveloped countries around the world with soldiers, weapons technology, and training in counter-insurgency methods.
These were the issues SDS raised in its protest against ROTC. Harvard's established groups--HUC, HPC, SFAC, and the CEP--attempted to anticipate and re-direct the ROTC discussion along apolitical lines. Their resolutions spoke of the sanctity of the ivory tower and the need to stiffen up ROTC's academic face. They succeeded in defusing the discussion of ROTC in official channels. The eventual Faculty debate centered on the academic qualifications of the Training Corps and the nature of the University, not ROTC's role in sustaining U.S. imperialism.
At that point, SDS intervened with a symbolic presence in a last attempt to make the ROTC debate "honest." Amid such subtleties, they attempted to refocus debate on the political aspects of ROTC and its sponsor, the U.S. military. These are the aspects of ROTC which make it of life-and-death importance to millions of people outside of the United States. These are the aspects which SDS sought to raise in its initial protests against ROTC.
The Harvard administration responded by calling the symbolic presence an infringement on democratic rights. After disciplining the wayward demonstrators, the administration established the Fainsod Committee to investigate the issue raised by Paine Hall. What was the issue? By now, it should come as no surprise. Of course the Fainsod Committee will look at student power, not imperialism.
THE FAINSOD Committee is an attempt to deal with the concept of student power in a procedural rather than a political context. "Student power" and "student power for what?" have been separated in a calculated manner. The former's isolation forfeits its radical potential. Student power to eliminate ROTC is valid. Student power to administrate ROTC is democratic direction of coercive force. The recent action of the Corporation proves that until the basic structure of Harvard is altered, students power can never be anything more than the latter. The Corporation simply will not allow ROTC to leave. There can be no honest student power until the Corporation no longer exists.
The co-optive nature of the Fainsod Committee is more explicit if one accepts, for the moment, the procedural validity of student power, per se. A review of the Committee's development thus far reveals that it is not an honest step in this direction; moreover it was never intended as one.
The Committee picked four students as "consultants." They are the presidents of HUC, HPC, SFAC, and GSA. Despite their titles, they will not participate as representatives of their organizations, according to Dean Ford. Probably the Dean has engaged on this illogical conduct, so uncharacteristic of him, in order to strip these students of whatever leverage they might ordinarily have as student body representatives. Also, if he recognized the HPC, a non-elected group, the Dean would expose himself to pressures to include other such groups of the Committee, like SDS.
These student members, such as they are, will almost surely be further manipulated by the Fainsod Committee. The Committee's instructions give advanced warning: students will be allowed to attend "selected meetings" only.
Most important, however, are the Fainsod Committee's instructions to study only Faculty decision-making. This assignment assures the Committee's ultimate triviality. Education is the only significant area over which the Faculty has control. One can assume that the Fainsod Committee won't get near the delicate area of Departmental control over education.
As the ROTC discussion proved, real decision-making power at Harvard rests with the Corporation, a self-perpetuating five-man body (with the President and treasurer as ex-officio members). With final say over financial priorities and investments, they can meddle in educational decisions at their fancy. They are men who represent the United States' financial and corporate elite.
The lessons from the Corporation's ROTC decision are most important. Rarely are the inner workings of a power structure revealed so blatantly and explicated so succinctly to the people it victimizes. Student power will not be allowed to interfere with the Corporation's hegemony over Harvard's vital decisions.
CLEARLY THE Fainsod Committee has been designed not to instigate student power but to co-opt it before the issue really threatened the Corporation's vital interests. The Committee's principal protagonists, Dean Ford, President Pusey, and Merle Fainsod are knowing in the ways of corporate bureaucracies. The first solicits money for them, the second administrates them, and the third studies them. Their hopes for the Committee, conscious or not, probably go something like this: the study will take three months, the reaction will take some time, and in the meantime, several "student leaders" will have developed a large stake in a bad report. SDS will oppose it. Many others will feel compelled to support it in the name of democratic procedure." About this time, the semester will be over.
Student power that doesn't challenge the University's support for American Corporate power is worse than useless. It gives the impression of reform and tends to silence opposition. That is what the Fainsod Committee is all about.