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Dean Ford's Letter to Pusey on ROTC


[The following letter is reprinted from a xerox copy given to the CRIMSON by the "Old Mole." The radical newspaper reprinted exerpts from the letter in yesterday's second special strike edition. Following below is the complete text of the letter as received by the CRIMSON.] February 11, 1969


Dear Nate:

Having just written you the necessary report of this Faculty's vote of last Tuesday, concerning the ROTC, I should now like confidentially and informally to set down a few of my own.

As you know, I disagree with many of the particulars, and virtually all of the spirit, of the resolution passed by my own Faculty. This is not a pleasant situation in which to find oneself, especially since in discharging my duty to make public that resolution, I have inevitably been identified by many outside critics as one of its proponents. However, I am here underlining my onw attitude only to be sure that neither you nor any member of the Governing Boards is in any doubt about it.

It did not, and still does not, seem unreasonable to me for Harvard to move toward such a situation as already obtains at John Hopkins, Fordham, and, I understand, an increasing number of other institutions, namely, an organization of reserve officer training which is extra-curricular for all students involved (as it is even here for graduate and professional school students). I believe that such a transition is in the cards almost everywhere, has been expected for some time by thoughtful people in the service departments and, in our case, could have been effected with good feeling and due regard for the interests of both the students and the military personnel involved. All that was needed from the Faculty was a general statement of direction, accompanied by a request for the creation of a committee to negotiate details.

What we have instead is a very badly framed gratuitously unpleasant and basically confused pronouncement. The Faculty alone has no business intervening in the status of instructors, if they are henceforth appointed outside its ranks and without regard to its initiative. NO more has it any business legislating about scholarship funds without knowing what students under other FAculties might expect if ROTC stipends were withdrawn. But what bothers me most is the underlying theme of the entire resolution, a desire to go on record against all things military, unaccompanied by rational evaluation of the effects of such action on a large number of non-military people, upon vast questions of foreign policy (which effect I could suppose to be just about nil), and upon the public standing of this University (which effect, by contrast, I can well imagine being massive).

One more word of background. The so-called "CEP alternative" was not in my opinion a very good one. Quite by accident, the two meetings at which it was drafted were both ones I had to miss--the first because of a conference in Italy, the second because of the flu--so I was left in the position of not being able to defend a formulation which seemed to many people unnecessarily, and perhaps even intentionally, oblique. Yet it struck me as unthinkable that I should repudiate the work of my own principle advisory committee. so much for this period of what I hope will turn out to have been only temporary impotence.

As to where we go from here, that is obviously something for you and the rest of the Corporation to decide. It is not my intention to try to guess that body's reactions or its views as to viable options. However, I should feel irresponsible if I did not suggest very briefly what any of several possible reactions might represent, as appraised from my particular angle. (1) The Corporation might, though I doubt that it would flatly reject the Faculty's recommendations as unacceptable. The trouble here is that, interwoven among points with respect to which the Faculty's competence is questionable, to say the least, are other points, having to do with the curriculum as such, where delegation of responsibility to the Faculty has been virtually complete. (2) It might be that a request for expressions of opinion from other Faculties of the University, especially that of Law, would remind people both inside and outside the institution that this is truly a University-wide problem. Such referral, however, might only make things worse unless Derek Bok were able to say with some certainty what his assembled colleagues would do--and the last time I talked to him, he just was not sure. (3) The Corporation might decide, purely on the strength of the vote from Arts and Sciences, to open exploratory discussion on behalf of the University with the three service Departments in Washington, perhaps using an advisory committee drawn from all the Faculties involved. Thereafter, if some clearly non-negotiable point emerged--such as the title of Professor for the head of each unit, as an absolute requirement for the maintenance of such units at the University--the negotiators could come back to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, either with a question as to how to treat that condition or with a flat announcement that the Corporation would offer professorial appointments to the ROTC unit heads, quite outside the structure of this Faculty. (4) The one other alternative I have been able to conceive would be a decision not to accept these recommendations from the the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in their present form, but instead to refer them back to the Faculty for whatever additional work and discussion is required to make them usable as a basis for further action. This course would occasion loud squeals; but there are two things to be said for it. First, the SFAC resolution was badly drafted--and I know that at least some of the Faculty members who voted for its were aware of its imprecision. Second, because of this bad drafting, we are left with no reliable notion as to how many members voted on the basis of vague emotionalism and how many others voted because they find the present departmental-curricular situation genuinely anomalous. At the very least, it would help to have the questions put separately, so that one might have some idea of what kind of Faculty opinion he has to deal with.

Finally, having jotted down these quite candid thoughts without presuming to go very far in elaborating or grading them (though my own preference for the fourth alternative just cited must be apparent), let me add one final reflection which is as necessary to state clearly as it is difficult to state tastefully. This has to do with my own position as Dean.

Since I took no pride of authorship in the CEP motion, the ROTC debate, while unpleasant in many of its respects, has not alone eventuated in what I should consider a vote of lack of confidence. Nevertheless, on issue after issue this winter the Faculty has disregarded the recommendation of its own committees and its own administrative officers, preferring to substitute the quickly formulated product of emotional debate for a considered judgement by people--including many besides myself--who had tried to weigh all the arguments heard at the Faculty meeting, and a number of others as well.

Somehow, without seeming to threaten in any egocentric way, I feel I must get before the Faculty the simple truth that in the atmosphere created by recent meetings it will be virtually impossible to hold the service of a Fred Glimp or a Chase Peterson or the remarkably hardworking professors who make up the Committee on Education Policy. And I shall have to make it equally clear that in such an atmosphere it will be completely impossible for anyone who also cares about teaching and scholarship to justify what seems to be an increasingly futile effort to represent his colleagues ad Dean of the Faculty.

The preceding paragraph expresses no hurt feelings or injured vanity (perhaps a securely vain man would survive these times better than some of the rest of us appear to be doing); but it is a considered institutional, not just a personal, judgment about the deanship as it now stands.

Excuse me for having added this coda on a matter much broader than the ROTC issue as such; but I believe that you and the Corporation are entitled to know the degree to which I now feel out of sympathy with many of the very people for whom I must try to speak, if only so that you may correctly evaluate what I have to say in the Capacity.   Yours sincerely,   Franklin L. Ford   President Nathan M. Pusey   Massachusetts Hall

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