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To the Editors of the Crimson:
Mr. Swanson's article (Tuesday, March 7) about Professor Herrnstein's "incident" with UAG and SDS is interesting and, no doubt, honestly written: but it does not say exactly what this incident was.
The headline declares that Herrnstein was "baited," the first paragraph that he was "intercepted," and "noisily pursued," the second that he regarded whatever had happened as "intense personal harrassment," and the fourth that he was "confronted" after "about 25 people simultaneously burst through" the doors of the lecture room. The fifth paragraph discloses that Herrnstein "strode grimfaced" through a crowd and that "a brief scuffle occurred between Herrnstein and an unidentified SDS member," the sixth that he and a policeman walked to William James Hall while SDS and UAG "continued to shower him with questions..." etc., etc.,
Even after we follow Swanson, Herrnstein, and "the group--its numbers now swollen to 20-25" on and off of two elevators, pace the sixth-floor corridor of William James with them, and walk with them in and out of the seminar room, we never learn what happened. Still less do we learn what it was all about.
The only clues are three references to "questions" in the article. Mr. Swanson says of "questions" 1. that Herrnstein left a "barrage" of them "unanswered" in his wake," 2. that SDS and UAG "continued to shower him with" them, 3. that they concerned Herrnstein's "alledgedly racist theories and his views on an Indiana sterilization law," and 4. they they were "persistent."
I was present ("showering" Herrnstein) at this "incident" and I would like to say what happened.
About 30 students went to Herrnstein after his class Monday and asked him if he believed his article on I.Q. had encouraged the forced-sterilization laws which are presently being considered by several state legislatures.
If he belived that his article encouraged forced-sterilization laws, the students asked, was this his intention in writing it? If not, they asked, what did he think of these laws and would he do something to oppose them?
Herrnstein did not answer the questions, nor did he acknowledge them. He gathered his brief case together and left the room. The students followed him.
On the way to William James the students continued to question Herrnstein, this time asking if he felt any obligation to answer questions at all. They pointed out that he had refused to participate in open meetings with UAG and SDS present, that he refused to answer questions about the article's political implications in class, and that spotters for the CRR were reporting students who persisted in asking them.
Herrnstein did not answer the questions.
The students also asked Herrnstein if he thought that "academic freedom" exempted him from responsibility to answer questions about the article. They said that since the article had been written on a highly volatile political issue, published in a popular magazine, and taught in the psychology course. Herrnstein had a responsibility to discuss it.
Herrnstein "remained unresponsive." (I am indebted to Mr. Swanson for the description.)
The "brief scuffle" occurred as Herrnstein went out a door through which a sophomore co-ed was entering. She thought Herrnstein had shoved her and she said so.
Herrnstein remained unresponsive. (op. cit.)
I belive the details of Mr. Swanson's article are accurate. John Osler Episcopal Theological School
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