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A recent Boston Globe staff editorial misled readers into thinking that Harvard Police are at odds with the administration, and that the Police are worried about student protests over Harvard's South Africa-related investment policy, University officials charged yesterday.
An editorial, in the form of a "memo" between the "Harvard Security Office" and President Bok, stated last Sunday that the security department expected protest incidents this fall because Bok has refused to change Harvard's South Africa-related investment policy.
"It misled the public into thinking that somebody in my department would send such a memo," said Chief of Harvard Police Paul E. Johnson, who has asked Harvard officials to request a printed clarification from. The Globe
"I don't have any problem with the issues raised, but the choice of words is certainly confusing, causing most people to arrive at the opinion" that the editorial was based on some factual event of actual memo, Johnson said. He said no such memo has been sent by his office, and added that the editorial unjustly pitted the police against Bok and other top administrators.
"This office has every reason to expect that the events of the past few weeks in South Africa have not gone unnoticed by our students on summer vacation. Absent a change in policy, the university should be prepared for some incidents this fall," the editorial started in the name of the security office.
The Globe wrote that unless Bok revises Harvard's investment policy in companies doing business in racially torn South Africa, students will respond that Harvard is a "tacit supporter of apartheid" and will escalate protest activities as they did this past spring.
While the Globe stopped short of advocating Harvard's divestment from South Africa-related companies, students have urged Harvard to divest and to end any ties with the country. The University has maintained the divestment is not necessarily effective and that is not proper for an educational institution to take such political stances.
Director of the Harvard News Office David M. Rosen said yesterday he has received a dozen phone calls this week from people requesting a copy of the alledged memo to Bok.
Rosen emphasized that the substance of the Globe piece was unobjectionable, but that the form it took left ambiguities and misimpression and deserved a Globe clarification.
"It was done with good intentions, but leaves a false impression. I have asked them to run a letter to the Editor" explaining that the piece was not based on any existing memo or correspondence between Bok and the Police Department, Rosen said.
The writer of the Globe editorial, Michael Kenney, said yesterday that he saw no major problem with the piece. He said he fulfilled his responsibility by inciting this "simmering reaction."
Kenney added that the Globe often uses the "memo" format to raise interest in a piece, saying the Harvard editorial was no more confusing than other past "memos."
"The only people it wasn't clear to are people in the immediate vicinity of the Harvard Square MBTA stop," he said, referring to the form of the editorial Kenney said it was obvious that the style was a ploy to increase interest in the editorial and not an immitation or a reproduction of a real memo.
Rosen said, however, that he thought the average reader was not aware of the technical differences between an editorial and a news story, and that the inclusion of official references to Harvard officials in standard memo form without explanation most likely led to widespread confusion.
But asked if he thought the form of the editorial was abstract enough to prevent any confusion, Kenney said. "It's quite likely there are such memos... You should be out looking for them rather than talking with sedate editorial writers."
Although Kenney said "it's free country," and that his work treats the issue legitimately, he added that he would apologize to Harvard for referring to the "security office" instead of some entity not connected with the official Police Department.
He said he had not yet received any request for a printed correction and it could not be determined yesterday whether the Globe would print a clarification of the piece, as Harvard has requested.
This is the second time this year President Bok, who is away on vacation this week, has been represented in print against his will and without his consent.
Earlier this year, Time magazine ran a piece in its "American Notes" section called "Bok in A Hard Place," which was presented as a letter signed by Bok and addressed to "Miss Manners."
The letter complained of Bok's dilemma in inviting President Reagan to speak at Harvard's 350th anniversary celebration in the fall of 1986. In the fake letter, Bok expressed concern over granting Reagan an honorary degree. Bok insulted professors who would protest such a move and said his last hope was that Reagan would just claim he is unworthy of such a degree so that he could participate in the celebration without receiving a degree.
Bok has said the piece is "blatantly false and misleading," but Rosen said he thought Harvard has done nothing about what he called the "outrageous misrepresentation" because it would not accomplish anything to protest to a weekly magazine. He said too much time would pass before a correction or clarification appeared.
"There's not that much we can do about it," Rosen said. That's internal bureaucracy made it impossible to get comment on the piece yesterday
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