Calling for the protection of free speech, Thomson Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr. last night defended his remarks linking grade inflation to the influx of Black students on campus.
Deflecting attacks on his controversial statements, Mansfield told the charged audience of more than 400 at an Institute of Politics panel discussion that he can prove his assertions, and that he does not consider them racist.
"I can prove it with my own observations and the observations of others. I saw this in my TPs, and I even felt an impulse in myself to do this," he said during a panel discussion on "The ABC's of Grade Inflation."
"The University is about the search for truth. Our motto is Veritas. It isn't about feeling good," Mansfield said.
Mansfield said the University needs "a greater range of frank speech on the issue of race," although students in the audience challenged the professor and charged that his statements were racist.
Mansfield's remarks have provoked a wave of controversy in the past month and constituted one grievance listed in a flyer titled "The Peculiar Institution," distributed last week by a coalition of nine minority groups.
The flyer demanded an apology for the statements, but coalition organizer and Black Students Association President Zaheer R. Ali '94 said Mansfield's speech last night was not sufficient.
"As far as I'm concerned, the issue is not resolved," Ali said. "The BSA] is still pursuing other means to bring about the resolution of this issue."
Despite the hissing and hostile questioning from members of the audience, Mansfield did not waver in his assertions about the origins of grade inflation, pointing to what he said were detrimental actions of professors who raised grades in the 70s.
"The desire was on the part of the white professors to do a benefit to Black students newly arrived in great numbers. What welcome would it be to give them C's?" he asked the racially diverse audience.
President Neil L. Rudenstine and Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles have both advanced alternative explanations lot grade inflation, saying that the phenomenon has nothing to do with increased recruitment.
"Blacks suffer more from inept good will on the part of whites than they do from racism," Mansfield said.
Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III criticized Mansfield's remarks after the discussion.
"I don't agree with Professor Mansfield, and having lived through that period, I was not aware of the attitudes he attributes to my professors," Epps said.
"Indeed, to the contrary, I believe that Black students had to struggle to find their place at Harvard and to have their excellence recognized," Epps said. "Grade inflation was well underway before the arrival of large numbers of Black students."
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