To the Editors of The Crimson:
Last year, there was a furor on campus, or at least in faculty circles, over new guidelines for restricted speech among Harvard students. This phenomenon was sweeping the country--professors and administrators deciding what students can say and how they can go about saying it. The ultimate absurdity was reached on the Tufts campus when certain zones--actual physical areas--were delineated where students had certain rights and where they did not.
Throughout the controversy a long-standing Harvard policy that severely undermines students' civil rights escaped reconsideration. Three of the four most fundamental human rights, guaranteed to Americans in the First Amendment, are denied to students in this one administration fiat. These rights: speech, press and association are trampled upon by the University's policy on organizations.
Harvard discourages the formation of student groups. It is widely understood that students are prohibited from forming chapters of established national organizations. But more cryptic regulations abound.
Students are not permitted to claim they belong to an organization unless they are recognized by the administration--and there's the rub. To be recognized, a student club must have two faculty sponsors (at least one of which must be a tenured professor), at least 10 members, a constitution and financial reports. Only then will the Committee on College Life consider the petition. Until organized, a group is not allowed to hold meetings on campus, have speakers, or publish materials for the student population.
Individuals or unrecognized groups aren't even allowed to poster on kiosks or dorm bulletin boards. Breaking these rules, and host of others, is a closely monitored and Ad Board-able offense.
The Association Against Learning in the Absence of Religion and Morality's (AALARM) road to recongition was even more arduous than most. First, there was a proctor who tore down our posters and a senior advisor who threatened us with the dreaded Ad Board.
Then we had to find 10 committed students who were not afraid to champion traditional values. Next, we had to divert faculty members from their learned pursuits to entreat their sponsorship.
It was a pitiful sight seeing tenured Harvard professors fearful of the effect on their reputations were they to sponsor AALARM. This trepidation outweighted their devotion to their sacred charge of advancing the free exchange of ideas.
Indeed, AALARM is a unique group at Harvard. We have a singular message of faith and morality. But, where free speech is concerned, difference is no excuse for silence. That the recognition process is more or less difficult for any one group should be an arresting indication that subtle censorshiop exists. The First Amendment was not penned so that moderate Protestant Freemasons could speak, worship and associate, but instead for the AALARMs and even the ORGASMs of the world.
This arbitrary label of "organization" is merely an excuse to regulate the spectrum of ideas that emerge from and represent our student body. Who says one, two or five people cannot have something to say that ought to be heard? And who claims that faculty members should screen our ideas and endorse our speech?
Why does the administration have control over what we hear or say? It leaves us feeling stifled. And that's saddening, because if there is one ideal a university should impose upon its students, it is an aspiration to grow and explore.
Harvard has some catching up to do--we need to rid ourselves of the stubborn anachronism of the University policy on organizations. Kenneth D. DeGiorgio '93 Adam Webb '93 Founders, AALARM