No Credibility


THE ISSUE OF responsibility lies at the core of another aspect of the divestment movement at Harvard: discipline. The Faculty has reconstituted a Vietnam-era disciplinary body--the student-faculty Committee on Rights and Responsibilities (CRR)--to punish some of the 200 students involved in an April sit-in at the headquarters of Harvard's Governing Boards and a blockade of a South African diplomat in a Lowell House room.

Students have almost continuously the CRR since its inception in 1970 and many have rightly to continue his spring, although some have merely convening of the CRR during exam period, claiming they no time to decide whether or not to participate.

The CRR lacks credibility because it exists only to punish political offenses and because its procedures--no right of appeal to a higher body, possible use of hearsay evidence, lack of clear guidelines matching punishments to crimes--are a mockery of due process.

The CRR, engaging in the type of selective prosecution its backers explicity claimed it was created to avoid, it symptomatic of clear University hypocrisy on the issue of accountability. Dean of the College John B. Fox Jr '59 has criticized students for failing to take responsibility for their actions. But the University has reacted irresponsibly to student civil disobedience, by failing to enforce guidelines in a forceful, forthright, and fair manner.

If Harvard really wanted to stand for its principles, it would have called students who participated in the April sit-in before the Administrative Board--the College's established disciplinary body--which, though secret, clearly represents the will of the administration. The CRR, an arbitrary group of seven Faculty members, is fully independent, has no established, accepted guidelines, and answers to no official or institution. Moreover we condemn the CRR's request that students act as judges of their peers.


If Harvard really wanted to defend free speech, it would have allowed police to arrest the students who blocked South Africa Consul General Abe S. Hoppenstein in the Lowell House Junior Common Room, just as protesters have been booked at colleges and consulates around the country. Ironically, although officials argue that the May 2 incident should be treated internally, the students involved would receive more due process before a real court.

Moreover, the University has shown contempt for its own traditions of free speech and movement by failing to take proper measures to enforce these rights. Instead it has, in an act of institutional weakness, resurrected an almost universally-hated tribunal which makes a mockery of the very rights the University has pledged to uphold. It has put students' fates in the hands of a body with no responsibility, no due process, and no legitimacy.

Harvard must have a method of preserving the rights of free speech, the lifeblood of a university community. The University affirmed these rights in the 1970 Resolution on Rights and Responsbilities, the document which the CRR was formed to enforce, which pledges that the University will uphold freedom of speech and movement, and freedom from harassment.

Unfortunately, the CRR, because it can only act against students and has been used only selectively, does not have the credibility to serve as the body preserving free speech. The Faculty and the University failed to call the CRR when in 1983 students heckled Secretary of Defense Casper W. Weinberger '38 and pelted him with tomatoes and eggs. The Faculty failed to call the CRR in 1978 when students shut down University Hall.

The University deserves a credible body which enforces the freedoms of all community members--including sexual harassment victims--with all the due process accorded those accused in the U.S. penal system. The CRR falls woefully short of these ideals on all counts.

Meanwhile, the administration has deftly managed to deflect community attention away from the root problem of this spring's unrest: the University's investments. We hope the CRR will quickly be abandoned, that the University will discipline the students fairly, and that we can resume our fight to convince Harvard that divestment is the best political and moral recourse.