Usually only the Yale game draws so many vocal students.
So when half of Harvard's student body turned out Thursday night for a demonstration against the Corporation's moral standstill on its South Africa investment policy, they surprised everyone--including themselves.
Leaders of the United Front, the coalition of student groups that organized the torchlight parade and midnight rally, said they expected no more than 1000 students--the same number that had attended Monday's rally--to show up in the Yard at 9:30 p.m.
But the march started out from the Yard with about 2000 candle-and-torch-bearing protestors. Two-and-a-half hours later, after winding through the Quad, the Law School and the River Houses, it returned to the Yard with a chanting crowd of about 3500.
Even police estimates of crowd size varied, from a low of 2500 to a high of more than 4000. But give or take 1000, it was clearly the largest demonstration at Harvard since 1972, when black students occupied Mass Hall for a week to protest Harvard's ownership of stock in the Gulf Oil Company, which had large operations in Angola.
And the marchers were remarkably well-behaved, keeping to the sidewalks and off the streets when marshals' asked them, and keeping their anger focused on a distant injustice, an economic system, and just a few top decision-makers.
No one this week had any ready explanations for the size of the crowd. Clearly, however, student concern about Harvard's connections with apartheid had been building--from small demonstrations of 40 to 100 students outside meetings of the Corporation's Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility in February and March, to a 400-student picket of a late March Corporation meeting, to an open Corporation hearing two weeks ago that 400 people attended.
The demonstration that started Thursday night ended yesterday with a day-long sit-in outside University Hall preventing administrators from entering. About 400 students circled the building yesterday morning at 9:30, and although their numbers dwindled as the day wore on, they had clearly made their point by the time they left at 5:30 p.m.
Student activism may well quiet down now, with the start of reading period. But the United Front, formed only a week and a half ago, is already talking about the fall.