Provost Criticizes Mansfield Remark

Says Prof. Has Been Offensive Before

Provost Jerry R. Green yesterday registered the strongest public criticism any senior University official has yet levied against Thomson Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield Jr.'s comments on grade inflation.

In an interview with The Crimson, Green said Mansfield's remarks linking grade inflation to the increased enrollment of Black students in the late 1960s are part of a history of inflammatory statements by the professor.

"Professor Mansfield has said a lot of things that have offended people over the years," Green said. "This is not the only time he has said something which is hurtful."

Green stopped short of calling Mansfield's remarks insensitive, but the provost's comments were far more strongly worded than earlier statements by President Neil L. Rudenstine and Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles. Rudenstine and Knowles both said they disagreed with Mansfield's comments.

Mansfield had said that after Black enrollment increased in the late 1960s, professors applied affirmative action policies to their grading.


Green said he understands students' concerns over Mansfield's comments, which were reported in The Crimson and Harvard Magazine in January. He said students should attempt to understand Mansfield's history when considering his latest statements.

"When you hear something like this you have to take into account who said them, who they're coming from," he said. "What he said could very well be difficult for some groups, especially for Black students."

"In my opinion, it's not the worst thing I've ever heard," Green added. "I've heard far more disruptive, far more hurtful things."

The provost said he has not discussed the matter with Mansfield and does not have plans to become involved.

"I really would like to draw a distinction between the things people say in their role as instructors, for which I think we can hold them accountable...from things said off the cuff," he said. "When a faculty member says something as a private citizen, I don't think we, as University administrators, can hold him accountable."

Green did not rule out intervening in the future, however, if he deter- mines actions by a Harvard professor to be too extreme.

"I can't tell you that if things got really out of hand that I wouldn't say, listen, what you're saying is really disruptive and I'd like you to stop, but I don't think Professor Mansfield reaches that level." Green said, "I wouldn't sit idly by if had the Ku Klux Klan marching through the Yard."

Green said he believes grade inflation is linked, in part, to a change in cultural attitudes toward grades in the last several decades.

"My opinion is that faculty everywhere, not only at Harvard, tried to align themselves with the students he said. "I really think it was a by product of the Vietnam years.

The provost said he doubts efforts to pinpoint the causes of the trend scientifically can be successful.

"I'd be virtually impossible to prove anything with the accuracy required," he said "You can shed some light on this and you can probably disprove some things but I don't think you can ever actually prove what caused it."

Rudenstine said earlier this week that Dean of Students Archie C. Epps is looking into the origins of grade inflation.

But Green said that ever, if research does provide answers, that information is ultimately not important.

"I really don't care what the answer is," he said. "Grade inflation. I think, is way overplayed as an issue."