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THE ADMINISTRATION'S consideration of SDS's request for rooms for its National Convention Against Racism has been marked by politically motivated intransigence. Every conceivable objection to the convention, including past debts, attendance limitations, and the convention's publicity, has been raised by the Administration.
The most pernicious argument brought up by the Administration was Dean Dunlop's threat that continuation of protests against Richard J. Herrnstein, professor of Psychology, might mean a denial of a convention permit. The use of the University's administrative functions for blackmailing a group into changing policies is a precedent with dangerous ramifications. To be consistent with its own pronouncements, the Administration should be able to enforce its rules with the apparatus it has set up to do so: the Committee on Rights and Responsibilities. Happily, the Administration has let the threat lie, without further mention or efforts to enforce it.
Unhappily however, the MIT administration, pursuing the same tortuous logic, has ruled SDS "inappropriate to host a national convention" on the basis of "its demonstrated attitude toward the foundations of the university and its underlying principles of free speech and individual integrity," according to Louis Menard III, assistant to the provost of MIT. By arbitrarily depriving the MIT chapter of SDS of its freedom to speak in a public forum with other SDS chapters, the MIT administration has placed political considerations above its own belief in free speech.
MIT'S DECISION eliminated the best alternative location for SDS to hold its meetings on the first two days of the convention. Harvard has denied it a permit on these days because classes will then be in session. The problem with having the convention while classes are in session is not a lack of rooms. Dean Epps said that the reason for denying the request for rooms on those days is a long-established, but unwritten. Faculty rule that a convention can not be held while classes are in session. This rule is necessarily arbitrary because it does not define what constitutes a convention. And its enforcement has been selective--as recently as last Thursday a model United Nations was permitted to convene here. That this unwritten rule is being used against SDS makes it appear that political considerations underlie its enforcement.
We hope that the Administration will reconsider its refusal to grant permission for SDS to hold the first two days of the convention here and in the future not allow political considerations to enter into the approval of requests for the use of campus facilities.
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