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The Mail THE STANFORD FIRE

By Harvard (history) and Dwight Bolinger

To the Editors of the CRIMSON:

At dawn on Friday, April 24, 1970, a calculated attempt was made to burn to the ground the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, California. Fires were set at four different sites; had they all taken hold, most of the Center would have disappeared, along with the lives of two college students asleep in the caretaker's cottage. Good fortune, timely discovery, and expert fire fighting prevented the worst. But the actuality was bad enough: to speak only of measurable losses, ten studies were completely burned-one-fifth of the total-with varying destruction to the work of as many Fellows. The worst losses were suffered by a distinguished Indian scholar: a major portion of his anthropological field notes, accumulated over a professional lifetime, was destroyed.

The Center is both a place and an idea. As a place, it sits on a hillside, overlooking the campus of Stanford University. It is built on Stanford land. but has no other connection with Stanford or any other in situation. As an idea. it has had a vital and enduring impact on the work of more than 700 scholars from the United States and places in all parts of the world who have had the opportunity to spend a year there, 45 at a time, in independent study and research. Established in 1954 with the aid of a Ford Foundation grant, the Center has offered Fellowships to social scientists and humanists-sociologists, psychologist, anthropologists, philosophers, political scientists, students of history, of literature and of language, to name just a few-who are concerned, each in his own way, with the behavior of man and society. The Center enables each scholar to pursue his chosen field of study. in the company of colleagues, without constraints of any kind. The Center, indeed, has come to epitomize the free search for truth in the study of man, the best traditions of scholarly community, interchange and dialogue.

We do not know whose hands set these fires: we do not know whether the Center was a singular target, or a symbolic one, or merely a target of opportunity. What is clear is that the destruction at the Center took place in an atmosphere where physical violence, with cumulative effects, has increasingly become an accepted instrument of political and social action. The burned-out studies and charred remains of books and papers at the Center bear witness that the consequences of violence are perverse, uncontrollable, and destructive of the life of the mind.

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