Four weeks ago, in a gross flouting of College rules and state laws, a brawl erupted at the D.U. final club between a football recruit and club members. High school senior John Burnham, who sustained a blow-out fracture on his left eye in the fight, never should have been at the club. Moreover, the subsequent hush-up of the incident again suggests that College officials prefer minimizing publicity to exacting appropriate punishments from blameworthy students.
Burnham's assigned guide, a first-year football team member, took him to the D.U. to "show him a good time." Here was the club members' first trespass: Burnham was not an authorized guest of the club, and the club rules also forbid the admittance of first-year students.
Burnham was asked to leave the club after exchanging verbal abuse with club members, primarily football players. The argument followed heavy drinking by all involved, in direct contradiction of state law, College regulations and D.U. rules. One of the most unfortunate but perhaps least surprising aspects of this story is that the D.U. was acting as a haven for excessive and underage drinking.
A few minutes later, Burnham returned to the club--admittedly with a mind to confront club member Sean Hansen '95--and claims to have been assaulted by at least five club members. According to one football player, "everyone went at him and he got the living daylights kicked the shit out of him."
No club members claimed to have been defending themselves from harm by assaulting Burnham, who was easily overwhelmed. The D.U. members clearly did more than what was necessary to force Burnham to leave the club.
This sort of gang assault should be prosecuted as a serious crime. We're shocked that no club members were expelled or forced to temporarily withdraw from the College in the aftermath; the Administrative Board only placed two on probation. If this melee doesn't qualify as "conduct unbecoming of a Harvard student," what does? We wonder whether Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57, who chairs Administrative Board meetings, would have acted in the same way if two drunk students were fighting inside a first-year dormitory.
Instead, the College, the Burnhams and the D.U. reached a settlement that severely constricts club hours for the remainder of the semester. The D.U. has closed until April 15 and, upon re-opening, will close on Friday and Saturday nights at 10 p.m. While we're glad that the D.U.'s graduate board decided to take strong action in the matter, we still doubt the College's ability to deter incidents of this kind in the future.
In usual style, the press couldn't extract any statements or comments from the University until the Administrative Board stopped deliberating. But this episode--which occurred off University property and involved a non-student--should have been the subject of open inquiry.
John Burnham plans to withdraw his application to Harvard, and hopes to attend some other Ivy League school. His beatings should leave a bad taste in the mouths of all football recruits, whose cushy treatment has finally hit a snag. We recommend two courses of action for the University: 1) a careful examination of the recruiting program, since it is clear that football team members can no longer take care of their own and 2) an end to the persistent coddling of students who commit serious offenses.