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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
DURING THE WEEK after the University Hall occupation and Bust, a group of professors, led by Archibald Cox '34, Williston Professor of Law, stood guard every night outside Widener Library, afraid that student protesters would try to occupy it.
Although the professors' fears of student action at the library turned out to be unjustified, the short-lived Widener watch may be the purest single example of the Faculty's prevailing attitude toward student protest before, during and after the strike: No matter how bad things get, the University should always remain a scholarly community, devoted to learning and unaffected by intrusions from the outside world.
This is not to say that the Faculty looked on student protest as bad in itself. It was only when student protest reached a point where it began to impinge on the sacred scholarly community that the Faculty began to worry.
BY THE BEGINNING of the 1968-1969 school year, a small group of conservative professors, most of them tenured and in the Social Sciences, had begun to meet now and then at each other's houses. They were the nucleus of what was to become the Faculty's conservative caucus (one leader of the caucus was John T. Dunlop, then Wells Professor of Political Economy and later to become dean of the Faculty), and had begun to meet in response to what they considered threats to the University.
Despite numerous pleas from students and Faculty members for leniency for the demonstrators, the Ad Board in January 1969 recommended that five of the students who sat in at Paine Hall be required to withdraw. But the Faculty overruled the recommendation, refusing in a 192-99 vote to kick anyone out. After that Faculty vote, the conservative caucus started to meet every week.
And although the Faculty's liberals supported the vote on saving the Paine Hall protesters, they did not support the protest itself. On the day of the Paine Hall sit-in, stalwarts of the Faculty's liberal wing like Stanley Hoffman and Michael Walzer, professors of Government, told students they thought the sit-in was a tactical error and would not further the anti-ROTC cause. Even SDS-connected Hilary Putnam, professor of Philosophy, told the students, "You shouldn't regard the Faculty as your enemy."
During this period, Faculty meetings became more frequent and well-attended than they had been for years. Back in the placid fifties, the Faculty always met in the relatively cozy Faculty room in University Hall and sometimes had as few as three or four meetings a year. In early 1969, the meetings were often held once a week or, just after the Strike, almost every day--and the Faculty usually could no longer fit into University Hall. By the spring of 1969, they were meeting in the Loeb Drama Center.
The Faculty came out of the Paine Hall incident looking lenient, and seemed to be steering a course of cautious liberalism the next month when it withdrew academic credit from ROTC, though voting down at the same time an SDS-backed proposal to expel ROTC completely. But a week after the ROTC vote, a new controversy struck the Faculty much closer to home and widened the gap between the Faculty and student radicals.
THAT SPRING, a visiting lecturer in Transportation named Siegfried M. Breuning offered a course at the Graduate School of Design called Planning 11-3b, "Riot Control." On February 7, 85 members of Afro demanded at the course's first meeting that it be abolished, and Breuning cancelled it. This was a crucial incident because for the first time students actually interferred with the teaching of a course. Before the Planning 11-3b incident, student radicalism and education had gone on independent of one another; now, radicalism took on a new, threatening quality.
A week later, 108 Faculty members placed an ad in The Crimson protesting Afro's disruption of the course. "A university community dedicated to free inquiry and discussion cannot tolerate any in- terference with, or disruption of, its academic exercises," the ad said. "To preserve academic freedom in the University, we request the administration to take measures appropriate to assure the inviolability of instruction and examinations in all duly approved courses."
At the same time, amid all the confusion, Franklin L. Ford, then dean of the Faculty, appointed an eight-member committee, headed by Merle Fainsod, Pforzheimer University Professor, to study Faculty decision-making. The Fainsod Committee stirred up a minor controversy when the Faculty rejected a proposal to include voting student members on the committee, but it faded into relative obscurity shortly thereafter amid the events of the Strike. As it turned out, ironically, the work of the Fainsod Committee probably had more effect on the way Harvard operates than any of the seemingly more important events of the Strike.
Meanwhile, students continued to bring political protest into the operations of the University, and as a result official student-Faculty relations deteriorated. On March 25, 150 students stormed into a closed meeting of the Student-Faculty Advisory Committee, a now-defunct group that was the predecessor of the Committee on Houses and Undergraduate Life, where President Pusey talked about keeping ROTC on campus. Some liberal Faculty members at the meeting asked the protesters to leave, just as other Faculty liberals at the Paine Hall sit-in had done.
Two weeks later, of course, came the occupation of University Hall. On April 10, the day police evicted the students from University Hall at dawn, the Faculty's liberal caucus met for the first time. More than a hundred Faculty liberals condemned Pusey for ordering police into University Hall and for his public statements on ROTC, and condemned the students who had occupied the building. The liberal caucus was larger and less well organized than its conservative counterpart. It included junior as well as senior Faculty; its members tended to be in the Humanities and the Natural Sciences; and it met fairly regularly in University buildings rather than in private homes.
But the caucuses didn't have any substantial clashes in Faculty meetings at first. Votes on according ROTC "no special privileges" and on setting up a disciplinary committee to decide what to do with the students who had occupied University Hall were near-unanimous.
THE NEW DISCIPLINARY committee, called the Committee of Fifteen (it had 10 faculty and 5 student members), began holding hearings in May, and although some students refused to appear before its closed-door meetings, it recommended in June that 16 students be required to leave Harvard because of their part in the occupation. The Faculty approved the committee's recommendations, and at the same time approved the Resolution on Rights and Responsibilities.
The resolution, which passed with the Faculty's overwhelming approval, was designed to set up a general Faculty policy on what kind of activity was unacceptable at Harvard. The Faculty has revised the resolution since the summer of 1969, but it still stands as the complete expression of the Faculty's feelings about disruptive student protest. "The central functions of an academic community," the resolution says, "are learning, teaching research and scholarship." Therefore, activities that disrupt those central functions are unacceptable, and the resolution prohibits, among other things, "deliberate interference with academic freedom and freedom of speech" and "obstruction of the normal processes and activities essential to the functions of the University community."
In the fall of 1969, the Fainsod Committee came out with its report, setting up the committees that exist now--including the Faculty Council, the CHUL, and the Committee on Undergraduate Education. There was a minor battle between the liberal and conservative caucuses over selection of Faculty Council members: The Fainsod Committee recommended that the dean of the Faculty nominate Faculty members to the council, but the liberals, afraid that the dean might nominate a predominately conservative council, pushed through a direct election system instead. (This turns out to have backfired on the liberals: Conservatives have dominated the council, and some liberals now favor a return to the appointment system.)
Since then, the Faculty changed the Committee of Fifteen into the harsher Committee on Rights and Responsibilities, which became the focus of student protests when it disciplined protesters, and then, as student protests died, pretty much withered away. The Faculty Council now does most of the Faculty's legwork quietly and efficiently, and has become completely apolitical. Just last week, the council cancelled a scheduled Faculty meeting because there would have been nothing to discuss; it was the second meeting to be cancelled in the last three months. And when the Faculty does meet, it is back in the old, small University Hall Faculty room. The liberal and conservative caucuses are almost completely dead. Last year they met once, to nominate members to the Faculty Council, and sources say this year they may not even bother with that.
It seems, in retrospect, that the only real lasting effect the strike had on the Faculty is that it led to the writing of the Resolution on Rights and Responsibilities. Despite the events in the outside world, and despite Harvard's involvement in those events, Harvard remains, in the eyes of the Faculty, apart, sacred, and inviolable
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