Campus politics usually tend to settle down a bit after the Commencement Day party tents are cleared away and the Faculty heads for Vermont or the Cape. In place of juicy student government scandal and University Hall intrigue, die-hard Harvard watchers are left with raging confrontations over summer school leg-shaving services and updates on the active campus social scene (see Campus Hijinx, below).
But in addition to the predictable warm-weather frivolity, several major events captured headlines here and in the national press this summer. Black Law School students initiated a controversial boycott of a civil rights course, demanding more minority professors and criticizing the prominent white lawyer scheduled to teach the class. A Harvard economist left for the White House and the weighty task of righting the Reagan economy. And that ever-troublesome power plant at the medical area was caught spewing some nasty pollutants and was closed down for a state investigation. Catch up on what you missed with the following:
Law School Troubles
Editorial columnists and academics around the country vociferously condemned the highly publicized boycott of a Law School civil rights course organized by Black students. The action, revealed in July and scheduled for this winter, provoked outrage because it seemed that the students had unleashed their frustration over a lack of minority faculty members on an undeserving victim: Jack Greenberg, an eminent civil rights lawyer who is also white.
The students argued from the outset that their protest stemmed from long-standing anger over the paucity of non-white faces among law professors. Only two of the school's 60 faculty members are Black. In addition, the students criticized what they considered an inadequate replacement for a previous civil rights course taught by a Black professor, who left Harvard two years ago. Rather than immediately hiring another full-time Black professor, Harvard asked prominent Black attorney Julius L. Chambers to lead a special three-week course during the January winter term. Chambers invited Greenberg to assist him.
"The fact that one of these visitors, Jack Greenberg, is white is simply not the animus behind our actions," the Black students said in a recent letter to the Crimson. The boycotts lashed out at those who they said had "erroneously characterized" the dispute. "We are protesting the complete lack of good faith by the Law School administration in recruiting and retaining minority tenured professors," they added.
But in earlier letters in July, the students had specifically attacked the choice of a white instructor for the mini-course, and they objected to what they called Greenberg's "apparent hostility toward historically predominantly Black educational institutions, his adamant refusal to relinquish directorship of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to a Black attorney, and his opposition to Black student associations on predominantly white campuses." Colleagues and law professors jumped to Greenberg's defense, and he denied the charges levelled by the law students. The student's belated attempt to deemphasize their initial criticisms of Greenberg did little to repair the damage done to their other, broader arguments about hiring practices. The controversy remains unresolved as the fall term begins.
In an unrelated incident at the Law School, the U.S. Army threatened Harvard with a loss of Pentagon research contracts because the Law School does not permit Army recruiting. Harvard joined five other universities in the military's dog house. All six schools have strict non-discrimination policies for encamps recruiting, which the Army says cannot follow because it excludes homosexuals and many disabled people from recruitment drives.
Harvard has thus far refused to back down in the case, as have the other schools. The Army's threat did not come with a specific deadline, and University officials predicted that the government would ignore the zealous Pentagon lawyer who first launched the surprise attack.
The Medical Area Total Energy Plant (MATEP) has been nothing but trouble since construction began in 1976 on what was to be a low-cost power facility. The price tag has jumped from $50 million to about $260 million since then, and the University's most glaring financial bungle of all time was forced to cease testing this summer because it violated state environmental codes.
Investigators discovered that Harvard had repeatedly operated the plant in violation of several state regulations, and the case was eventually brought before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The Court ruled that the State Department of Environmental Quality Engineering must reopen hearings on the University's application to operate the plant, which is located off Brookline Ave. in Boston. The hearings could last well into the winter, lawyers predict, perhaps delaying MATEP's official opening for another full year.
Mending the Houses
While MATEP coughed and wheezed in Boston. Harvard raised another cloud of dust back home in Cambridge. The University undertook a massive renovation campaign that so far includes facelifts for two of the River Houses, refurbishing Sever Hall, rebuilding the football stadium, and knocking down Burr Hall to make way for a new wing of the Fogg Art Museum.
Operations were only slightly hindered by minor labor strikes, but it remains unclear whether major aspects of the most ambitious renovation project in Harvard's history will be finished on schedule. At Lowell House and Winthrop House for example, workmen were supposed to be packing their tools by last week, but huge swatches of scaffolding and signs warning. "Danger: Hard Hard Hats Required," remained up through the weekend. The $40 million repair jobs include extensive interior repairs as well as exterior structural work.