The Calkins Saga -- A Second Chapter

Explaining Why Cleveland's Schools Affect Harvard And Why Calkins Is Not the New Kennedy Part II

This outlook has its effects on Calkin's approach to Harvard. Back when the University's failure to invest in ghetto businesses was a hot issue, Calkins explained the Corporation's reluctance. The gesture was pointless, he said. Harvard simply did not have the power to solve the problem. If students really cared about helping the ghetto, they should put pressure on the government to wield its might there.

The same ethic makes the attack on University rental policies seem foolish to Calkins. The University cannot pragmatically afford to take losses on the apartment buildings it owns, he says. As a practical necessity and as a preventative against federal influence, the University needs to be self-supporting.

But students say that there is not enough housing for the poor people in the country. He agrees. But he says the energy being used to force changes in the rents in a few Harvard units or to prevent the eviction of several hundred Boston tenants is being wasted. If it were applied to the federal government, he says, some worthwhile programs to house millions of poor people might emerge.

Calkins adds another practical argument to his reply to SDS expansion demands. You want to stop the Affiliated Hospital Center from being built? he asks. Then you are depriving the millions of poor people who will profit from the new medical techniques it will develop.

Baroque variations are possible. When students asked him at a panel discussion last week why the Corporation could not take a loss on investments and rentals, Calkins responded with an artful practical problem. You want us to spend more money in the ghettoes? Then we will have to cut down somewhere else, like in the new Afro-American Studies program or in the new fellowship for black graduate students.


The same formula applies to the University's government. Bureaucracies should be accessible to their constituents; Calkins has tired to move his school board closer to the people.

Are students on the Corporation the next logical step? No. The Corporation is already straining to run efficiently. Calkins says. Add more people and it will never get its business done. The men who fly in every other week to meet in Massachusetts Hall are busy, and an overblown Corporation would probably drive them all away.

But the Corporation's remoteness also poses a pragmatic threat. Calkins realizes that; he realized it before the bust. The solution he found was to keep the Corporation small and efficient, but to set informal contacts with students whenever possible.

Most of these arguments-from-practicality could easily be mistaken for old-style conservatism. In April, most of them were. The one application of Calkins' theory that came as a surprise to most students was his "elegant dissent" scheme.

This too was an idea rooted in practicality. The real goal of the ROTC protests, Calkins said was to end the war. Just getting ROTC off Harvard territory won't that. What the protestors need to do is to win a national following--the civil rights marchers did in the South. National sympathy, he said, was the only way to have a successful campaign.

But the protests so far eve had just the opposite result. The list of the country is mad at the students. So when they win the local battles, they may just be increasing the national war machine, Calkins says.

Why does the country hate these protestors? Because their dissents not "elegant." Calkins says the key the civil rights victory was the elegance of its protests. The people were martyrs to their cause. Protestors who demand amnesty aren't martyrs. And so the tactic Calkins suggested on television and in talks with students was for University Hall demonstrates to accept punishment willingly. Then their protest would be effective.

And Calkins' keen sense of what it necessary at the moment dictated much of his own activity last month. Like President Pusey, he thought that the University was threatened. Unlike, Pusey, he knew what to do about it. The Corporation had to