THE FACULTY acted clearly and wisely yesterday by adopting the Heimert resolution on Afro-American Studies. This resolution answers the criticisms levelled against the new program, and does so without in the least departing from the spirit of the Rosovsky report, which brought the program into being.
Though some Faculty members obviously regret the apparent break in their unanimity, this too should be viewed as an encouraging development. Yesterday's relatively close vote indicates no new pronounced dissension within the Faculty, but rather a new willingness to bring old differences out into the open. In the future, this willingness to argue and vote without unanimity may cut either way, but it is far better that the Faculty reach a narrow conclusion than, as in the case of ROTC, a unanimous confusion.
One final point of optimism concerns the Faculty's increasing faith in the judgment of small student-Faculty groups. It was such a group that prepared the Rosovsky Report, and it will be such a group that plans the Afro-American Studies Program for the next three years. Perhaps the program's chief bottleneck to date has been the seeming scarcity of good teachers; now Harvard's black students will not longer be asked to accept this problem on faith, but have a chance to see for themselves and propose ways of overcoming it.
About 150 Faculty members voted against the Heimert resolution. Frank B. Freidel Jr., professor of History, expressed the sense of this group when he listed three objections: first, that prospective teachers would not wish to join a program unless students were specifically excluded from tenure and curriculum decisions; second, that teachers, once at Harvard, would face undue pressures of student popularity; and third, that concentrators would feel similarly compelled to seek the favor of those students involved in setting requirements for the program.
The major flaw in Freidel's argument in its failure to recognize that Faculty members, like students, occasionally judge students on personal rather than academic grounds. Indeed, a teacher's future status should be affected more by his classroom abilities than by his performance at cocktail parties, or department meetings. Fortunately, both students and Faculty are sometimes known to suppress their personal tastes in the interests of broader academic criteria. They may dislike a man for his dress or his politics and yet respect him for his scholarship. A system of checks like that now planned for Afro-American Studies should help protect prospective Faculty members against purely personal judgments from either quarter.