To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
Your article on the SJP in Tuesday's CRIMSON is highly inaccurate.
As our statement last Friday made clear, there were two reasons for cancelling the second teach-in: 1) lack of adequate protection by the University; 2) the allegation that we were simply trying to provoke a confrontation, not engage in discussion.
The item you unveil this morning as "news"-namely that two (as opposed to five) speakers had accepted for this teach-in-was in fact explicitly stated in our release. We initially thought this might be good: it would attract less radical attention, and perhaps our speakers would be heard. But the scheduling of all the anti-war demonstrations over the weekend and this week convinced us that our teach-in might still be an irresistible target for the left.
I don't know who your "sources" are, but I did talk to Mr. Cox about the teach-in, as did four other SJP members. In addition to making clear that we could expect no more protection than last time, and in particular that the University would not undertake to check bursar's cards and confiscate bull-horns at the door of the that-tre, Mr. Cox suggested that closed circuit TV might be a good medium for the whole event. Considerable informal pressure was also brought to bear on us by the administration.
The shouting down of the first-teach-in, and the cancellation of the second, have raised the issue of free speech. But that was not their initial purpose. Rather we hoped to begin discussion of Vietnam based on facts and history, as it should be in a university, and not on emotion. For all the anti-war demonstrations, all the "teach-in" at which journalists and politicians speak, for all the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on pro-and anti-war activities, it is clear that most Americans, and most Harvard students, are still just as ignorant of Southeast Asia as they were ten years ago. It is revealing that, despite all the activity at Harvard related to Vietnam, and all the money spent, the University is having difficulty raising enough money to endow one professorship of Vietnamese History.
SJP had hoped to after this situation a bit by encouraging a genuine debate. The events of this spring have made clear that is impossible. Rather than face another evening of chaos, which, we believed, would not help discussion on Vietnam, and could only hurt the free speech issue, we decided to cancel.'71 Co-Chairman, SJP
[In my conversations with administrators including Dean Epps and Archibald Cox, I learned that the protection issue-which SJP claims was pivotal-never came into discussion between SJP and the administration. Epps put it generously: "It must have been an unstated premise" that the University could not offer "the kind of protection SJP wanted." What kind of protection did SJP want? Nobody could answer that.
Laszlo Pasztor, SJP co-chairman, told me Monday that "no specific protection question was raised." He went on to explain that "since we only had two speakers [one of whom said Monday that he had not accepted] it didn't seem worth their while to hold the teach-in." Cox said the only vague reference to protecting a second teach-in came after a meeting about the Counter Teach-In disruption, when he suggested that SJP return (which they never did) "because we have a lot of things to talk about." According to Cox, checking bursar's cards and confiscating bull-horns were tactics discussed only generally and in relation to the Counter Teach-In.
The CRIMSON article on May 1 states SJP Program Director Stephen Rosen's allegation that "SJP did not aim to cause SDS reaction by scheduling a pro-administration teach-in." I didn't think it necessary to repeat this allegation.
Since the purpose of a teach-in is to present various speakers' views, I thought it significant that only one speaker admitted to accepting SJP's invitation. Additionally, Cox implied-as did several other administration people-that a dearth of adequate speakers was the primary issue involved in your cancellation.
Finally, there was no real indication that any disruption, other than a peaceful walk-out, would have blighted the teach-in.