President Bok's after-dinner speech at last Thursday's Kirkland House senior dinner apparently raised the hackles of more than one guest present at the occasion. Many faculty and students present at the dinner have since said the tone and content of Bok's remarks were both offensive and inappropriate.
Bok opened his remarks by saying that, "Since it's been such a placid year, there really isn't that much to talk about." He then proceeded to recount anecdotes and reminiscences of the student protests of 1969.
"It was like you were being told an off-color joke in front of your mother," David J. Schraa, assistant senior tutor in Kirkland House, said Saturday. "Though there were a lot of absurdities in the '60s, there was something about his leering tone that was distasteful," he added.
Neither Evan Z. Vogt. professor of Antrhopology and master of Kirkland House, nor President Bok was available for comment yesterday afternoon.
"I found it confusing," said one resident tutor, who asked not to be identified. "It was a curious statement abaout the themes of the '60s. He treated it in such a flippant manner, tending to disregard the importance of those events. I didn't know whether he was making a particular political statement, or simply a humorous after-dinner address."
In one of his anecdotes, Bok related how, as dean of the Law School, he was spirited off at 2 a.m. to meet with three student radicals--all wearing sunglasses and berets--in a dimly-lit room. Bok said they slid him a piece of paper--which would sign the recruiting powers--and ordered him, "Sign here."
Bok made light of this incident, which Ronald W. Napier '72, assistant senior tutor, termed "very humorous."
"He wanted to create a sense of levity. I was here during the '60s, and think that Bok had a very full view of the situation," Napier added.
The speech, which lasted about half an hour, elicited much laughter from the audience and even catcalls from one rugby player, who had apparently drunk too much.
"I thought the speech was slanderous to a certain portion of the student body." Herbert Larsen '79 said.
Larsen cited Bok's gibe that women's groups at the Law School had demanded 51 per cent of the school's recruiting funds. Bok termed this "outrageous" and made a joke of it.
Observers questioned tended to agree that Bok probably would not have given the same speech in another House, and that his tenor catered to his audience.
"Kirkland is more conservative than other Houses, and Bok was obviously playing to the crowd," said James F. Hughes III '79.
Schraa said he was bothered by this sense of Bok's "pandering to a particular audience," rather than fulfilling a University-wide role.
One senior, who asked to remain anonymous, criticized Bok for "portraying the various spokespeople for different groups he interacted with as kind of outlandish characters. He represented the '69 strike as a flight of fancy on the part of protesters who had little grasp of reality.