To the Editors of the Crimson:

As a former section person in Professors Bailyn and Thernstrom's "Peopling of America," I was surprised and indignant to read in last Tuesday's Crimson that Professor Thernstrom had been formally charged by students with allegedly having made "racially insensitive" remarks in his lectures. Having attended Professor Thernstrom's lectures in 1985, I am convinced this charge is entirely unfounded, and deplore the students' ill-considered decision to attack the moral integrity of one of the university's most thoughtful and compassionate teachers and scholars. Even more disturbing is the refusal of anyone, other than Professor Thernstrom, to raise in the Crimson the far more fundamental issue of free speech.

Free and open discussion of controversial issues is vital to the future of our university community. Yet continued reliance on the Committee on Race Relations as a political tribunal will inevitably discourage teachers from raising precisely those issues that most insistently demand to be the subject of sustained and vigorous classroom debate. The Committee has a valuable and important role to play in improving race relations at Harvard. It would be a shame if it became transformed into a vehicle for character assassination and thinly veiled assaults upon the First Amendment. Richard John '81   GSAS G7


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