News

City Manager Talks Cambridge Emergency Shelter, Discourages Street Closures in Council Meeting

News

On Leave Due to COVID-19 Concerns, Forty-Three Harvard Dining Workers Risk Going Without Pay

News

Harvard Prohibits Non-Essential University Travel Until May 31, International Travel Cancelled Until August 31

News

Ivy League Will Not Allow Athletes to Compete as Grad Students Despite Shortened Spring Season

News

‘There’s No Playbook’: Massachusetts Political Campaigns Navigate a New Coronavirus Reality

Alumni Protest Powell Invitation

Rekindle Spirit of the Class of 1968

By Stephen E. Frank

Rekindling some of the spirit of protest that marked their years at Harvard, members of the Class of 1968 yesterday told President Neil L. Rudenstine that they were upset by the University's invitation of Gen. Colin L. Powell to speak at Commencement.

During a question-and-answer session following a brief address by Rudenstine to the 25th reunion class, several alumni barraged the president with barbed questions about the invitation of Powell, who is chair of the joint chiefs of staff.

In addition, one member of the class told The Crimson after the event that he and several former classmates who are assigned to seats on the Commencement stage with Powell will stand in protest during the general's speech.

At another alumni symposium on Vietnam held later yesterday, some members of the Class of 1968 said they favored protests during Powell's speech. One mentioned a petition circulating among alumni asking that the military's ban on gays and lesbians be lifted.

And a flyer that was posted in the Yard yesterday urged faculty members to stand and turn their backs to the stage during the ceremony honoring Powell with an honorary degree.

The expressions of dismay over the invitation of Powell are the latest in a series of protests from around the University relating to his vocal defense of the military's policy on homosexuals.

During the session in Sanders Theatre yesterday--which included addresses to the class by Rudenstine, Radcliffe President Linda S. Wilson and Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles--three of 12 questions from the audience were about Powell.

"I'd still like to see the Com- mencement speaker changed," Susan A. Bramhall '68 told Rudenstine, prompting loud applause from the audience.

But Rudenstine received applause when he defended the invitation of Powell.

The president praised Powell's record of military service and called him "a person of great intelligence [and] great courage."

"He may be wrong, but it's a principled position," Rudenstine said. "We owe him a good welcome at Harvard."

"There will be dignified, silent and, I hope, not disruptive protest," Rudenstine added. "I hope [Powell] can go home and say when he has spoken, 'I was at Harvard. Harvard is a great institution. I was not insulted.'"

Approaching the microphone a few moments later, another member of the class said the invitation of Powell compounded the "insult" of the Shah of Iran's 1968 Commencement address.

Catalyst for Support

And Arthur N. Dion '68 asked Rudenstine whether the Powell speech could be used as a catalyst for increasing support for homosexuals.

"Do you agree that those who feel the pain of gays and lesbians at Harvard [should use the speech] as a time not to take issue with Powell, but as a time to say something loving and supportive about gays and lesbians?" asked Dion, who was wearing a pink lapel button reading "Lift the Ban."

Rudenstine said he will attend a dinner sponsored by gay and lesbian alumni on Thursday evening, immediately following Commencement. And he said Harvard should be a place for "embracing in the community people of all kinds."

The president, who later sat on the edge of the Sanders Theatre stage greeting alumni as they filed out of the hall, said he had expected the tough questioning.

"Having been here in 1968 [and] knowing the feelings on the issue...I would have been surprised if there hadn't been any questions," said Rudenstine, who was an assistant professor of English at Harvard until 1968, when he left for Princeton University.

Class of 1968 Protest

Dion said he and other representatives of the Class of 1968 who will be sitting on the stage for the Commencement ceremony will rise during the Powell speech.

"We will be physically embodying our love and support for gayness," he said.

A flyer posted in the Yard yesterday urged faculty to stand and turn their backs on Powell when he receives his honorary degree from Rudenstine Thursday morning.

"Our backs turned...will send an unequivocal message: Harvard's faculty and students will not tolerate intolerance," said the flyer, which was printed on stationary from the Graduate School of Design but was not signed.

Questions About Labor Problems

Also during the addresses to alumni yesterday, Ricky Liberman '68 asked Rudenstine and Wilson about Harvard's recent "labor difficulties."

In response, Rudenstine defended the nearly year-long negotiations, completed in January, to draw up a new contract with the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers.

Wendy M. Seltzer contributed to the reporting of this article.

But Rudenstine received applause when he defended the invitation of Powell.

The president praised Powell's record of military service and called him "a person of great intelligence [and] great courage."

"He may be wrong, but it's a principled position," Rudenstine said. "We owe him a good welcome at Harvard."

"There will be dignified, silent and, I hope, not disruptive protest," Rudenstine added. "I hope [Powell] can go home and say when he has spoken, 'I was at Harvard. Harvard is a great institution. I was not insulted.'"

Approaching the microphone a few moments later, another member of the class said the invitation of Powell compounded the "insult" of the Shah of Iran's 1968 Commencement address.

Catalyst for Support

And Arthur N. Dion '68 asked Rudenstine whether the Powell speech could be used as a catalyst for increasing support for homosexuals.

"Do you agree that those who feel the pain of gays and lesbians at Harvard [should use the speech] as a time not to take issue with Powell, but as a time to say something loving and supportive about gays and lesbians?" asked Dion, who was wearing a pink lapel button reading "Lift the Ban."

Rudenstine said he will attend a dinner sponsored by gay and lesbian alumni on Thursday evening, immediately following Commencement. And he said Harvard should be a place for "embracing in the community people of all kinds."

The president, who later sat on the edge of the Sanders Theatre stage greeting alumni as they filed out of the hall, said he had expected the tough questioning.

"Having been here in 1968 [and] knowing the feelings on the issue...I would have been surprised if there hadn't been any questions," said Rudenstine, who was an assistant professor of English at Harvard until 1968, when he left for Princeton University.

Class of 1968 Protest

Dion said he and other representatives of the Class of 1968 who will be sitting on the stage for the Commencement ceremony will rise during the Powell speech.

"We will be physically embodying our love and support for gayness," he said.

A flyer posted in the Yard yesterday urged faculty to stand and turn their backs on Powell when he receives his honorary degree from Rudenstine Thursday morning.

"Our backs turned...will send an unequivocal message: Harvard's faculty and students will not tolerate intolerance," said the flyer, which was printed on stationary from the Graduate School of Design but was not signed.

Questions About Labor Problems

Also during the addresses to alumni yesterday, Ricky Liberman '68 asked Rudenstine and Wilson about Harvard's recent "labor difficulties."

In response, Rudenstine defended the nearly year-long negotiations, completed in January, to draw up a new contract with the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers.

Wendy M. Seltzer contributed to the reporting of this article.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags