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To the Editors of the Crimson:
We are writing this letter as members of an ad hoc group of students and faculty who, following the occupation of Massachusetts Hall by PALC and AFRO, attempted to organize a public debate on the question: "Should Harvard Divest?"
Following the occupation, we felt that the issues raised by PALC-AFRO should be publicly discussed. Our idea was to organize a debate with three speakers representing each side of the question.
We contacted PALC-AFRO and it agreed to send a representative. Stephen Marglin, professor of Economics, and Derrick Bell, professor of Law, also agreed to speak in favor of the position that Harvard should divest its Gulf stock. The arrangement of the "pro" side was relatively simple to organize, in striking contrast to our attempts to gain speakers for the "con," or Administration side of the question.
We initially contacted Mr. Stephen Farber, Special Assistant to the President, and Mr. Charles Daly. Vice President for Government and Community Affairs. After a day of consultation, we were notified that they thought it was inappropriate for the Harvard Administration to provide speakers to defend its position, since the position was already stated in a series of documents issued by the President's Office. On the other hand, they did suggest several persons, who they felt could speak for the Administration's position, while not representing that position.
Six names were suggested, including one Dean, three faculty members, and two persons from the Universities of Rochester and Yale. One of the outsiders agreed to participate, and though those we contacted expressed interest in the debate, all had other plans during the several evenings proposed for the debate.
We therefore decided to ask Mr. Farber and Mr. Daly to speak for the Administration side. Mr. Farber declined to participate because of planned trips. Mr. Daly indicated he did not think it would be useful for himself or the Harvard Administration in general to debate the issue. We then approached a member of the Faculty Committee that had prepared a document on the financial responsibility of the University. He also declined to debate on the ground that such a debate would generate an unwarranted precedent in that every proxy decision of the University would in the future be open to public discussions.
After several weeks of numerous phone conversations, we finally concluded it would be impossible to get speakers in the short time remaining this spring to represent and-or speak for the Administration's position.
We believe these events are indicative of the entire discussion of the Gulf stock issue over the past year. The Administration and Corporation's decision to settle this question behind closed doors subverts the basic nature of the University as a place of open, free, and democratic discussion. Institutions in a democratic society must be publicly accountable for their decisions. The failure of the Administration in this case to publicly debate its position is a dangerous precedent. We urge that a major public debate be held in the fall on the entire issue of Angola, Gulf Oil, and Harvard's relationship to both. And, we are of the opinion that every proxy decision of the Corporation should be taken only after a community-wide discussion. Such decisions should not be the prerogative of a few individuals who hold the command posts in this institution.
Clarence W. Normand
Shelton H. Davis
Fred B. Kotler
James T. Clifford
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