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Learning to Cope with the Real Harvard

Introducing Harvard available around campus


The trashing of the Center for International Affairs last spring gained few converts for the radical cause. The trashers justified their action on the grounds that the CFIA engages in counter insurgency research. This explanation, which conjures up images of mad scientists designing smart bombs is completely inaccurate. Realizing the fales of this allegation, many Harvard students were not only repulsed by the trashing as violence per se, but also saw it as totally senseless.

The defense of the CFIA trashing is only the most glaring example of the specious activist reasoning that has flourished here in recent years. Students initially sympathetic to a radical analysis have been swiftly disenchanted by monotonous catch phrases and facile analysis. A group of ten activists moved last summer to correct that deficiency several months of research and writing produced Introducing Harvard," the first coherent radical analysis of the University since Who Rules Harvard appeared in 1969.

Introducing Harvard is well-written and beautifully illustrated It avoids the boring litany of traditional radical rhetric students are not told to "Smash" or Fight Back" and professors are not labeled war criminals" or "racist pigs." In calm judicious language it states the case against Harvard's Cold War research, exploitative investment policy and arrogant, expansionist attitude toward the Cambridge community.

The pamphlet's analysis of the CFIA is an example of its effectiveness. The activists explain that the Center provides a more subtle form of support for the American Empire than the trashers alleged. The men of the CFIA are not evil imperialists but well meaning economists statisticians and sociologists with their own developed view of the world--a view that holds up international stability under benevolent American dominance as an ideal toward which to strive As Introducing Harvard" explains their view of stability actually serves to justify brutal repression of Third World liberation movements and their conception of American benevolence turns out to mean exploitation by American corporate interests. The CFIA is an enemy of the people of the world but it is an enemy that must understood and coped with on its own terms.

THE REST OF THE pamphlet's analysis tumbles out in a inevitably dreary procession. Robert C. Sramans '40, Secretary of the Air Force oversees the bombing of of Indochina between meetings of the Board of Overseers. Harvard engineering professors moonlight with war contractors. The University doubles as one of Cambridge's biggest landlords while giving the cits payments in lieu of taxes that amount to only a fraction of what it should pay were it taxed equiably. The hithert faceless men of the Governing Boards, who exercise almost absolute power over the affairs of the University, turn out to be successful corporate executives and lawyers, hardly the types of individuals one can easily contemplate marvelling at the beauty of Virgil or composing a viola concerto.

There is almost too much here to digest at one reading. Harvard's reputation as a benevolent liberal institution is exposed as a shallow myth. There are no ivory towers at Harvard: the University is not somehow removed from the 'real world.' Endowed professorships in English and Music are financed by investments in corporations that exploit minorities pollute the air and engage is profitable imperialist ventures abroad.

Of course, viewing these revelations with horror presupposes an activist interpretation of the world. A person who believes in the menace of the international Communist conspiracy will applaud Harvard professors who have forthrightly assisted the American Cold War offensive. A free enterpriser will praise the successful captains of industry who populate the Governing Boards. For all its merits. Introducing Harvard"--or any took for that matter--will not convince Heary Ford II. to join the revolution.

But these radical writers realize that changes in political consciousness are prompted by fundamental changes in a person's life or orientation to the world not by the mere reading of a book or pamphlet. People generally feel dissatisfied with the world as it is and look to radical politics to provide some sort of explanation for their alienation instead of being immediately persuaded of the merits of the radical analysis. "Introducing Harvard's" best chapter, the Introduction, explains why upper-middle income Harvard students in recent years have come to reject contemporary American capitalism. Harvard's historic role as the training ground for the corporate and governmental elite is receding into the background. The entering freshman comes to Harvard eager to continue expanding his intellect, widen his interests and gain more control over his own life. But he is quickly stymied, for the majority of students here are being trained to assume boring administrative jobs in rigid, bureaucratic organizations. Gone are the days when every Harvard graduate could look forward to running his own corporation or political campaign. But the myths lag behind reality: many students here still expect to graduate to "some undefined, exotic, independent career." The pamphlet suggests that this gap between expectations and reality is what motivates Harvard students to challenge a system they are being trained to help administer.

BUT THE GAP between growing alienation and effective radical action is not easily traversed. As the pamphlet explains, many students "relax into an easy-going have haze of dope or music" and remain unaware of how to change their lives by helping to change society. "Introducing Harvard" is written for the questioning student, the person who is bored and lonely and just starting to put the pieces together. Written by people who have experienced the same inchoate feelings of frustration and anger, the pamphlet attempts to provide reasonable, action-oriented answers.

Although it does contain descriptions of existing radical organizations, the pamphlet makes no prescriptions for action. This is no major deficiency: the information in the pamphlet should provide enough ammunition for years of radical organizing. "Introducing Harvard" provides the basis for radical actions which could equal the success of the Palc-Afro's occupation of Massachusetts Hall last spring.

UNLIKE THE CFIA trashing, the Mass Hall occupation met with an overwhelmingly favorable response on the part of the student body. Students rallied to its support, calling a strike and joining picket lines around the embattled building. The differing degrees of support cannot be attributed to the nature of their objectives, for the relationship between Harvard's investments in Gulf Oil and the Angolan war of liberation is initially just as unclear as the link between the CFIA and the Third World. PALC and Afro scored important political points because they staged a careful campaign to gain support for several months prior to taking action. Utilizing teach-ins, intelligible leaflets and innovative tactics, they explained Portugal's position in Angola, Gulf's relationship to Portugal, and Harvard's connection with Gulf. They effectively demonstrated what initially seemed highly improbable--how Harvard's divestiture of Gulf stock would aid people fighting for their freedom halfway around the globe. They laid out a string of causes and effects and sold it to the Harvard community.

"Introducing Harvard" is a call to action: it represents the first step in an activist campaign similar to the PALC-Afro effort. Radicals should seize upon some of the issues explored in the pamphlet, formulate and publicize demands and present a reasoned case for those demands to the University community. Only in this way can we begin to reclaim our University, piece by piece, from the lawyers and the bankers who have turned it into a greedy and irresponsible international corporation. Dan Swanson

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