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PALC Goes to Court

The University:

By Douglas E. Schoen

It began with a song.

The 31 students charged with occupying Mass Hall in April began their CRR hearing Monday by singing the spiritual "We are Soldiers of the Lord" and spent most of the three-hour hearing trying to convince Committee members that Harvard was the guilty party.

The students freely admitted that they had occupied Mass Hall. However, they contended they had not violated the Resolution on Rights and Responsibilities because their occupation was, in the words of one of their witnesses, Ewart Guinier, chairman of the Afro-American Studies Department, "an act taken under a higher persuasion than the law."

Speakers from a wide range of University groups explained that Harvard was morally wrong by refusing to sell its 680,000 shares of Gulf Oil stock. They said because of Gulf's support of the repressive Portuguese regime in Angola, Harvard should divest itself of its stock.

Deborah Bassett '74 contended that the students who occupied the building had exhausted all legal remedies in trying to get Harvard to sell its Gulf stock. She said that the efforts of the Pan African Liberation Committee and Harvard-Radcliffe Afro had been met by "insensitivity" from the Administration and the Corporation.

The Administration's case was simple and took only 15 minutes to present. Richard B. Stewart, assistant professor of Law, told the Committee that any occupation of a University building constitutes a violation of the Resolution on Rights and Responsibilities--even if students feel morally bound to take the action they do.

Derrick Bell, professor of Law and adviser to the defendants, defended the occupation and urged the Committee to set a new precedent so that "all of us will know when a moral action can be deemed justifiable in a University community."

Yet despite two and a half hours of testimony, from 13 witnesses, on the moral commitment of the occupiers, it was not clear if any members of the Committee bought the argument. Only one member seemed to be moved by any of the testimony given, and few questions were asked of any of the witnesses.

Charles W. Burnham, professor of Mineralogy and chairman of the CRR, said he doubted if any decision will be handed down before the first full week in June. He explained that his Committee had to consult with disciplinary bodies in other faculties of the University considering other cases stemming from the occupation of Mass Hall.

The CRR was originally slated to hear 17 cases. But last week, 14 other black students signed statements acknowledging they had participated in the occupation, and their cases were heard also.

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