Faculty Steering Committee Calls Shantytown Classes 'Unacceptable'

Instructors leading their classes from the fluorescent glow of cramped basement classrooms to sit in circles in the Yard usually don't create much of a stir. Several weeks ago, however, a minor controversy erupted when instructors gave a new twist to that old Harvard tradition.

A few instructors who brought their classes to meet on the Yard's less-than-lush grass weren't hoping April sunshine would rekindle interest in Tocqueville or Melville that had melted away with the March frost. Instead, they moved their classes to support the goals of the Yard's shantytown-protest against Harvard's South Africa-related investments. But faculty members and students charged the practice coerced students to support the protest.

Aiming to end that disagreement, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences' steering committee Wednesday instructed the faculty's teaching staff not to hold classes in the shantytown.

In a move which came five days after most College classes stopped meeting to observe the reading period, the Faculty Council unanimously endorsed a statement which cited "the element of coercion that may be involved" when classes meet at the shantytown and calls such moves "unacceptable," said Faculty Council Secretary John R. Marquand.

It could not be determined yesterday how many classes might be affected by the council's action because the University does not keep track of how many classes continue to meet during reading period. "We don't keep track of who meets during the study period," Associate Registrar Thurston Smith said yesterday.

According to individuals present for Wednesday's meeting, members considered holding classes at the shantytown and infringement of the rights of students unsympathetic to the protest.

The members also concluded that peer pressure and the presence of an instructor would make it inappropriate to put decisions about meeting at the shantytown to a class vote, council members said.

The council spent little time discussing Wednesday's statement at this week's meeting because they had given the matter extensive consideration when they meet last week, Marquand said. Nevertheless, the council members could not or would not agree on a public statement at that time.

"Basically, there was no difference of opinion. Everyone agreed, but we just didn't want to fight over wording," Eric Mazur, a member of the council who is an assistant professor of physics, said following last week's meeting.