It was not the kind of year that Harvard administrators--or student--had come to expect. It was simply not the kind of year that could support all the familiar, pat theories of student apathy, the creeping "new mood" of preprofessionalism, the old refrain that "change at Harvard always proceeds with glacial speed." It was, in fact, a year filled with relatively swift changes--in both the structure and attitudes that shape student life. The years of retrenchement, of building up scar tissue over the wounds of the last decade, seemed finally to be at an end.
The changes came on all fronts. From above, Dean Henry Rosovsky was leading the Faculty of Arts and Sciences into its first major revision of the undergraduate curriculum in a decade--a revision that would spark considerable student opposition and place the ill-defined phrase "Core Curriculum" into a hundred newspaper columns. From below, students pressed for a new form of self-government, as asembly that would give students the powerful voice many believed they would never attain under the nine-year-old system of student-faculty advisory committees. And finally, from the outside world there arose a different kind of pressure. Thousands of students began to feel a moral imperative to protest Harvard's financial holdings in companies doing business with the white minority government in South Africa.
Of course, these three isolated events do not tell the whole story of the past year at Harvard. Libraries were still budy, pre-meds still tuned into the organic joys and tribulations of Chem 20, students still managed to shrink into the monolithic, protective background of mass-production academia. It would be wrong to devise some theory of mass student activism to describe life at Harvard--the changes of the past year were anything but revolutionary. They were, instead, just beginnings, intriguing shifts in direction of momentum, little crevices in the facade of a community grown comfortable with statics. What is significant--what made the past year an interesting one to watch--was that they could even begin to take place.