More Shanties

From Our Readers

To the Editor of The Crimson:

Plywood frames and garbage bag walls. Some sort of white wooden tower. This is what met my eyes one morning in Harvard Yard. Before then, I had somehow deluded myself into thinking that the debate over divestiture that has been conducted so vociferously on this campus would maintain a semblance of rationality and intelligence. With construction projects similar to SASC's, such traits vanished at schools as diverse as Dartmouth, Brandeis, and the University of Vermont. Unfortunately, Harvard's divestiture debate has now sunk to the level of the empty symbolism and unproductive confrontation displayed at these other colleges. SASC has managed single-handedly to redefine the limits of debate, and it has chosen to erect shanties and a tower that will certainly become the focus of stepped up (and less constructive) debate on campus.

In its "Letter to the Harvard Community," SASC sets down its rationale behind Cambridge's newest eyesore. Shantytowns such as SASC's, we are told, symbolize the economic hardship of the South African Black. SASC, however, seems not to realize that it is the political rights of Blacks that are most abused and therefore it is not economic issues which must be dealt with first--in economic terms, South African Blacks are significantly better off than their counterparts in other African nations.

SASC also felt compelled to add a new twist to the shantytown concept, the "Ivory Tower," so that its display might not be perceived as an uncreative imitation of other schools' divestiture movements. This tower also exhibits the inherent contradiction in SASC's argument. In its "Letter," SASC writes that "the Ivory Tower, another familiar symbol, represents the distance, the apartness, and the isolation of universities. Yet our university cannot be a removed entity." Instead, it is the divestiture movement which is erecting its own ivory tower by supporting self-indulgent moral isolationism. One of the few manners in which Americans can have some impact on the internal workings of a sovereign nation is through the constructive use of investment. Using investment as a means toward social and political progress may not bring about an overnight solution, but divestment leaves us with no influence at all. Instead, it robs Blacks of jobs and isolates us from the debate inside South Africa. Divesititure is a quick-fix panacea that would leave us atop the most impregnable ivory tower of all--that of self-righteousness. All we could do is yell at the South African government from our dizzying moral heights supposedly content with the knowledge that we had cleansed ourselves of the entire affair.

I will defend to the death everyone's right to say anything they want, no matter how much I disagree with them. Pithy rhyming couplets shouted through megaphones at midnight vigils are protected by our nation's Constitution. But our Constitution also protects the rights of others and the right of property, both of which SASC has chosen to trample upon. So it is that Harvard is left with ugly, meaningless piles of wood, feeble echoes of other schools' shantytowns, that fail to address the root problems SASC claims to be concerned about--instead of working toward the improvement of rights for South African Blacks, SASC members insult the rights of their fellow students. Christopher D. Roy '86