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Radicals Counter Traditional Orientation

News Analysis

By Daniel Swanson

Orientation week has traditionally been the time when the University rolls out its big guns and tries to impress incoming freshman with the piety and the glory of Harvard.

At meetings, coffee klatches, receptions and teas, Administration and faculty luminaries monotonously remind new members of the Harvard-Radcliffe family of their privileged position in "the oldest, richest and forest" center of higher learning in America.

Many new freshmen are consequently somewhat disconcerted when they quickly discover that some of their fellow students share none of this reverence for Harvard.

Posters and picketing students label some of the famous of the Faculty as war criminals; the University's investment policy is called racist and imperialist; and, University administrators are termed insincere frauds.

The entering freshman is thrust unprepared into a world of swirling controversy where the lines of conflict have been drawn and fought over for a period of years. Activists and establishmentarians both seem hopelessly beyond the pale of understanding.

Strolling through the Yard between classes, the freshman is beset by bullhorns blaring names of "war criminals" and other "enemies of the people." Upon returning to his room, he finds an equally mindless communique from an Administration figure about some controversy that began back in 1968 and is not even fully understood by its protagonists.

The rational response to all this seemingly nonsensical noise is to ignore both sides and either follow the football team or do your Mongolian homework.

Recognizing this problem, a group of about ten activist students spent last summer planning a week of what they call "Counter-Orientation" activities.

The students, who will be joined by others from two Harvard-Radcliffe activist groups, plan to counter the Administration's presentation with small meetings, films about the antiwar and women's movements, and door-to-door canvassing of freshmen.

The biggest gun in these activists arsenal is an 80-page pamphlet entitled "Introducing Harvard," which presents the radical viewpoint of the University's alleged culpability in the Indochina War, sexism, racism and imperialism.

The students, members of the New American Movement and the Cambridge Movement, plan to circulate the pamphlet in the course of their door-to-door canvassing of freshmen.

"Harvard is a cold and lonely place to be," the pamphlet begins. "Harvard as an institution is more concerned with prestige than with education: and prestige means collecting famous names for the faculty, building impressive new buildings, and constantly increasing the endowment."

This cheery introduction is followed by an analysis of Harvard's position in the American system. "Most of you are being trained for (and many of you came from) the upper-middle-income white collar world," freshmen are told. But "traces of Harvard's traditional role as a 'ruling-class school' can be seen all around you--in the incredible opulence of much of campus life, or in the 'born-to-rule arrogance which is widespread among the students and faculty.'

The pamphlet continues with an exhaustive analysis of Harvard's position in the world and concludes "We doubt that this brief summary of our views has converted your we hope that it has interested you in further political discussions with us".

After a little ever a year of relative, Harvard activists hope that last Spring's resurgence of radical activity will continue through this year. Although actions here no longer make the front pages in Time and Life magazines, the campus has by no means returned to the apolitical days of yesteryear.

Radical activity on various issues--mainly Harvard's investment policy and the war--reappeared in varying degrees in the Yard last April.

This time, however, the activists met with a flexible response on the part of the Administration. In contrast to the spring of 1969, there were no police busts, so threatening rhetoric. no bloodied heads. President Bok and his advisors handled a black student six-day occupation of Massachusetts Hall with a maximum of finesse.

Radicals learned last Spring that they can no longer count on Administration blunders to hand them tactical victories. The day has passed when the liberal majority on campus could be radicalized by reactionary rhetoric and police violence. Successful activist campaigns must be characterized by reasoned argument and innovative publicity techniques.

The prototype for such an effort was waged last Spring by the Pan African Liberation Committee (PALC) and Harvard-Radcliffe Afro. The campaign, against Harvard's ownership of 700,000 shares of Gulf Oil stock, began inauspiciously in September when the ten PALC members wrote and began circulating a position paper explaining their position.

They charged that Gulf aids in the oppression of black Africans in the Portuguese colony of Angola because the company maintains oil drilling facilities there and provides the Portuguese colonial regime with direct payments and needed foreign exchange. A little-known war of liberation has smoldered in Angloa since 1961.

PALC demanded that Harvard divest itself of its Gulf stock and issue a public statement condemning the company. In this way, they hoped to trigger a series of similar divestitures nationwide, and force Gulf out of southern Africa.

When the dispute began, few students could even locate Angola on a map. But the PALC organizers used a carefully orchestrated series of tactics to rally support for their cause.

They issued well-written and researched pamphlets, staged demonstrations and teach-ins, and gradually attracted attention and support from Afro and the Harvard black community, and then from the white liberal majority. In perhaps their most novel ploy, the blacks early one March morning implanted 500 black crosses in the middle of the Yard to commemorate blacks killed in Africa by Portuguese colonial armies. PALC and Afro supporters spent the day explaining the purpose of the crosses to curious passers-by and gathering petition signatures in support of their position.

The campaign was so successful that when 35 blacks staged the Mass Hall takeover in April, a picket line of supporters numbering at times as many as 1000 circulated outside the building constantly for the duration of the six-day occupation.

Since Harvard has not divested the Gulf stock. PALC and Afro plan to continue the campaign this year. They are waiting until later this month, when Stephen B. Farber '63, special assistant to President Bok, will make public a report on his summer fact-finding mission to Angola. The issue remains one to watch in coming months.

White radical groups--students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Cambridge New American Movement (NAM)--will necessarily follow a scenario similar to PALC and Afro if their proselytizing efforts are to affect large numbers of students.

The size of SDS at Harvard has dwindled from hundreds to tens since the national organization split at the SRIMONIOUS 1969 Chicago convention.

Harvard-Radcliffe SDS spent most of last year waging a prominent campaign against Richard J. Herrnstein, professor of Psychology. Herrnstein, whose theories concerning the inheritability of intelligence were labelled "racist" by SDS, is on leave this year and the organization will have to look for new issues to drum up support.

The Herrnstein campaign was unsuccessful largely because SDS, influenced here by the rigid doctrines of the old-Left Progressive Labor Party (PLP), remained isolated from most of the University community.

After the 1969 split in SDS, the New Left elements within the organization formed various shortlived local groups. At Harvard, the New Left, which tends toward flexibility and a freedom from 'correct' doctrine, was represented first by the November Action Coalition and liberation by the Radcliffe-Harvard liberation Alliance.

Both groups were dormant in the beginning of the 1971-72 school year, but with last Spring's revival of activism, the New Left once again came to life as two similar ad hoc groups, the New American Movement and the Cambridge Movement.

In additional to these organizations, various women's groups, including an increasingly active Radcliffe Union of Students (RUS), plan to continue organizing around the University's sexist hiring and admissions policies.

Chicano and Boricua students are also showing increasing militance. Last Spring, they vehemently opposed the appointment of Phyllis Kazen as an assistant professor of Anthropology because they felt the Department was hiring a Boricua and Chicano Studies professor without their consultation.

Kazen maintained that her course dealt with the entire ethnic experience and not only with Chicanos and Boricuas. The students rejected this interpretation and threatened to disrupt her class.

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