After 20 Years of Harvard Protests, The Lawyer Behind the Lawyer to Step Down

Daniel Steiner '54

But ending the fray is as much about staying out of the fray, explained one top Harvard official recently. If the Bok administration is remembered for its mediation skills, much of the credit, many say, must go to the lawyer behind the lawyer.

Known by friends and student activists alike as "Dan Steiner," Vice President and General Counsel Daniel Steiner '54 has been Bok's "principal and most trusted advisor on student protest" for more than 20 years, says the outgoing president.

And sharing counsel with Bok, Steiner has also shared some of his flak. Over the years, the general counsel has more than once been singled out by demonstrators as an opponent. Most notably, he is featured in the South African divestment chant, "Dan Steiner, get the word! This is not Johannesburg!"

Such attention, he says, has not bothered him. Steiner dismisses the accusations implicit in such chants--that he or Bok or Harvard is acting to help the apartheid government--as "pretty silly."

Bok has for the most part maintained a smooth political image, compared to his predecessor, Nathan M. Pusey '28, who is often remembered for sending Cambridge police clad in riot gear to forcibly eject protesters occupying University Hall in 1969. Since then, under Steiner's counsel, the Harvard administration has learned a thing or two about protests and public relations.


Explains Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III, "As a general rule about protests, you don't let the president make the first decision, because then you're stuck with it." Instead, Epps says, you delegate.

Epps recalls the time that pro-divestment student protesters erected shanties in Harvard Yard in 1986. Bok sent Steiner to meet with Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57, Epps and police officials, and the group decided to leave the shanties standing, pending negotiations with the protesters. Several months later, the students agreed to remove the shanties.

At Yale University the same year, Epps says, then-president A. Bartlett Giamatti reacted more impulsively--and personally--to student-erected shanties. He ordered them removed immediately, setting off highly-charged demonstrations in which large numbers of students were arrested.

"I think it's a mistake for the president to get too intimately involved in a lot of these things," Steiner says. When the administration's Mass Hall offices were occupied in 1971, Steiner recalls, Bok went on a trip that had been scheduled, though he kept in touch by phone.

Recent Protests

More recently, Harvard police arrested 12 men on charges of "open and gross lewdness" in a Science Center bathroom in January 1990. Attributing these arrests to homophobia and intolerance, gay student groups took action. They called Steiner.

"We found him to be very concerned," says Chad S. Johnson '89, who attended the meeting. "He seemed quite receptive...It was obvious that he was making an effort to understand our concerns."

Steiner helped to organize a joint police-community committee of students, staff members and police officers that would discuss issues relating to gay and lesbian treatment in law enforcement. In recent months, committee members have held a number of "sit-down" meetings to talk with police officers, and Johnson says he believes that if more arrests take place, they will likely be handled in a very different manner.

Harvard Police Chief Paul E. Johnson says that one of Steiner's most important roles in supervising the University's police department is to act as an intermediary in cases like this.

It is Steiner's responsibility to uphold the enforcement of the law, while at the same time attempting to address the concerns of students, the police chief says. "And that's not an easy position to be in sometimes," he says.