ONE PRINCIPLE that must be strictly observed if the current student strike is not to transform itself into a disastrous and tragic war between students and Faculty is that there occur no disruptions of classes.
From viewpoint of the striking students, the most obvious reasons why such disruptions must be avoided are tactical ones. Disruptions of classes, whether by blocking access to classrooms or by interrupting lecturers, cannot possibly help to convince non-striking students to support the strike, and will probably anger them into active opposition to it.
More importantly, classroom disruptions will inevitably turn the Faculty solidly against not only the strike but against the demands behind it. The Faculty demonstrated, at its meeting yesterday, a willingness to act on important issues behind the strike. It approved a resolution whose effect will be to abolish ROTC, and in so doing has properly transferred responsibility for this matter back to the Corporation. On the question of a black studies program, the astounding tactless decision to defer a vote on Afro's demands until next week should not obscure the Faculty's approval of the spirit of those demands. Tuesday's meeting is likely to approve the Afro position--unless classroom fracases have by then rendered the Faculty unwilling to consider anything but law and order. Faculty members are already extremely concerned about the prospect of extensive disruptions of classes, and there is little question that should such disruption materialize, the Faculty would feel itself compelled to drop all substantive issues and to support the Corporation in whatever measures that body felt to be necessary to restore "normality" to Harvard.
Disruption of classes will also give students back into line. Like the removal of the Deans from University Hall, disruption of classes makes good newspaper copy, and cannot help but obscure the underlying issues behind the current crisis at this University. The Corporation must not be given a chance to wrap itself in the cloak of academic freedom; its future actions should be based explicitly and publicly on the real issues of ROTC, expansion, and the structure of the University.
THERE IS, furthermore, a moral argument that must be made against disruption of classes. This argument need not be based on the simple-minded assertion that the preservation of the right to teach and learn within the University is an absolute moral imperative. It is possible to envision circumstances where this right would come into direct conflict with the prior right of people to defend their lives and their freedom: a lecture on quality control techniques involved in the production of napalm is not, in the context of this country's policies abroad, absolutely entitled to protection against protesting students. But there are no courses being taught in Harvard College whose disruption would demonstrably serve the vital interests of the Vietnamese or of anyone else. This is not to say that the ideas expressed in many courses may not have repressive or destructive implications. The point is merely that these implications. The point is merely that these implications cannot be fought by preventing teachers from expressing such ideas in their classes. The morality of disruption in such cases is therefore nil, and only anger and bitterness can be produced by it. The net result, in other words, is not only dangerous but bad.
IT IS IMPORTANT to note that thus far in the strike, there has in fact been very little disruption of classes. Wednesday night's strike meeting adopted a policy against such disruptions, and individual students have for the most part showed restraint and tactical sense in this matter.
But as the strike continues, the pressures militating for disruptive tactics may increase. For this reason, it is essential that strikers not only observe the policy against disruption, but to try collectively to enforce it on everyone. To do otherwise is virtually to guarantee that disruption will take place. And this, no matter how small the number of students involved, would be disastrous.