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Snakes and Ladders


By William E. Mckibben

You win a little, you lose a little. The drive to end University investment in South Africa and to strengthen the Afro-American Studies Department received a morale boost and lots of free publicity from Monday's boycott of classes, but the gains were costly--the boycott alienated some students, and the protest apparently had little effect on University policy.

Surprisingly large numbers of students stayed away from classes Mondy; estimates of the no-shows ranged from 40 to 70 per cent. Those figures are tenuous, though, and include those who were simply unwilling to face picket lines or more interested in the 70-degree sun than in Chem 20.

Many students who did go to classes said they were there to show their opposition to the boycott--some stood and hissed demonstrators who paraded through Ec 10. and then cheered long and hard for Dean Rosovsky when he announced, "I think I have an obligation to teach."

Others who crossed the picket lines said they felt intimidated, although protesters did nothing to prevent them physically from getting to class. Others questioned the effectiveness of the boycott in changing Corporation policy, and on that score they appear to have been right.

"I don't think anyone's mind is changed by marches and protests anymore." Daniel Steiner '54, general counsel to the University, said early Monday morning as he stood outside Massachusetts Hall watching demonstrators confront students going to 10 a.m. classes.

Later in the afternoon. Steiner stood outside Massachusetts Hall again, this time to read a "personal reaction" to the demands made by the Coalition for Action and Awareness, which organized the rally. Demands are incompatible with "reasoned debate." Steiner told the hissing crowd.

On the other hand, the boycott served to demonstrate a widespread student support for the issues.

About 700 people gathered in the Yard to hear a variety of speakers defend Afro-American Studies and call on the University to divest of its South Africa-related investments.

National media also played up the event; even if the publicity has no effect on Harvard, it may help educate others about South Africa and touch off similar movements on other campuses, the organizers reason.

Protest organizers also believe they effectively demonstrated the link between Afro-American Studies and divestiture, a connection some who went to classes challenged as weak.

On the issue of Afro-American Studies, Ewart Guinier '33, professor of Afro-American Studies, said Monday Rosovsky is now committed to preventing downgrading of the Afro Department to a committee.

Even if that claim is true--and no one is saying flat out that it is--organizers point out that the other half of the battle, strengthening the department, is far from won.

The only clear thing about Monday's boycott, it seems, was the weather.

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