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Mock Militancy



To the Editors of The Crimson:

What last Thursday's 'open' meeting with President Bok did most successfully was to point out the serious problems underlying student activism at Harvard. In the first place, the meager attendance was an embarrasing indication of student apathy. How can students expect change if there is so little interest in it? Secondly, in rejecting even basic courtesy, the students who spoke compromised their dignity, and hurt, rather than helped, their causes. Whether or not Bok's comments merited total attention is not the point. By continually interrupting him, and by denying Bok the opportunity to express himself, the students reduced the 'open' meeting to little more than a mock trial. This kind of militancy earns neither support nor respect, and turns student crusades into absurd jokes.

Despite their constant demands for divestiture in South Africa, activist students have been unsuccessful in persuading the corporate mentality of the administration. However, the kind of student hypocrisy paraded at last Thurday's meeting leads nowhere--with either administrators or students. How can fellow students be expected to take rallies and boycotts seriously when "Strike Now" posters are sold by the Young Spartacans in the Union for two dollars a piece--and activist groups are plagued by the indecision and lack of leadership shown, for example, at last week's nuclear protest meeting (where students left because organizers could not agree on topics for discussion.)

These examples only serve to justify critics like Judge Leon Higginbotham, who in his commemoration of Martin Luther King concluded that college militancy is a charade, motivated by careerism, rather than any commitment to help others. Whether or not this is applicable to Harvard students, (have the admirable ideals of the '60s followed that student generation to Wall Street?) these claims do seriously question student priorities. What the South Africa issue has most importantly done is to awaken some students from preprofessional, egocentric apathy to the realities of social injustice. It is this new consciousness of the need for social change that must be somehow directed. Somewhere between the poles of South Africa and toilet paper (topics treated with equal weight in a recent Assembly Poll) lie issues directly relevant to the needs of this community. Not until activist students have the courage to approach less glamorous and idealistic, but equally important problems, will they be taken seriously by their fellow students, by the administration, and by the society they aspire to influence. Until we re-examine our priorities, we will only perpetuate an absurd "charade." Anne A. Maccoby '82

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