IT HAS BEEN nearly a month since John McClellan's Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations subpoenaed Harvard for information about student protesters who get Federal aid. More than a week ago, five Harvard deans answered the subpoena with a list of 32 students. Since then, the committee and its investigation have dropped out of the news. There has been little tangible evidence so far that the subpoena or the reply have brought a new wave of Congressional oppression down on the University. But this momentary lull should not conceal the danger McClellan's committee poses to Harvard and the country's other universities.
Taken at simple face value, McClellan's first subpoena does not threaten the universities very much more than does the current Congressional talk of "anti-riot" legislation. McClellan apparently is not going to use the information to try to take aid away from the 32 students. That discriminatory use of Federal aid as a whip against poor students may come, but it will come from another committee. And the information that McClellan forced out of Holyoke Center is far from secret. If he had been in a hurry, McClellan could have sent an aide to the Office of Education files in Washington to get exactly the same data.
But McClellan's decision to make the universities take part in his investigation suggests that deeper probes are coming. Few Harvard deans imagined that last week's reply was going to satisfy the committee's appetite for information about the student rioters. The recent record McClellan's committee has chalked up offers meager encouragement. In its investigations of urban riots and of Chicago's Blackstone Rangers, the committee similarly began with innocuous requests for information about Federal programs. From there it moved into more sweeping hunts for signs of plots and Commie agitators. His recently-released report on summer riots offers startling evidence of how dearly McClellan still believes in the conspiracy theory of American protest. It is not hard to imagine what kinds of plots he will be looking for in the colleges.
HARVARD HAS MADE it plain that it dislikes McClellan's first subpoena, and Harvard will plainly dislike future subpoenas even more. The obvious question the University faces is whether it should keep on co-operating when McClellan calls again.
Resisting the first supoena would have been stupid and pointless. McClellan would still get the information, but Chase Peterson and the other deans would go to jail. But when the committee starts looking for information that is not already sitting in government files, the University's decision will be more important. Fifteen years ago, the Administration denounced Communists but also tried to thwart Joe McCarthy. President Pusey has built part of his reputation on that stand. If he and the members of the Corporation still believe in those principles, they should make it clear that they will not play along with a new hunt for a new kind of campus witches.
Part of the University's response can come in simple practical steps. When McClellan subpoenaed the records of several organizations at Stanford and Berkeley, he found he could get nothing from Harvard. Since the old McCarthy days, Harvard has avoided those detailed organization records. The same prudence should convince the President and Fellows to assume formal responsibility for the student records that McClellan may soon look into. Individual deans should not have to face the choice of obeying a subpoena or going to jail. Harvard University is in a much better position to have a showdown with McClellan, and the Corporation should take that responsibility.