News

The New Gen Ed Lottery System, Explained

News

Armed Individuals Sighted in Harvard Square Arraigned

News

Harvard Students Form Coalition Supporting Slave Photo Lawsuit's Demands

News

Police Apprehend Armed Man and Woman in Central Square

News

107 Faculty Called for Review of Tenure Procedures in Letter to Dean Gay

Campus Rocked By Politics of War

By Victoria E.M. Cain

The turbulent politics of race, class and authority which swelled around the Vietnam War ripped through the Harvard and Radcliffe campuses during the 1969-70 school year, affecting relations among students, faculty and administrators.

It was the year of the Peace March in Washington, the Kent State and Jackson State murders, and the invasion of Cambodia.

Spring classes were graded pass-fail in order to allow students more time for protesting. President Nathan Marsh Pusey '28 was crucified by the campus press for his apolitical stance in the fall.

And the Square, the Yard and the football stadium were filled with chanting, striking students, frustrated with the war and frenzied for change.

"We were very hopeful. I think that's the difference between then and now," says Deborah A. Frank '70.

"We really thought we could bring in a new society. Changes were happening so fast, and we assumed things would just keep changing. You know, 'if you want to end wars and stuff, you got to sing real loud," she continues, quoting icon singer Arlo Guthrie.

But for many students, the hope of the late '60s and early '70s was accompanied by consternation and fear, says Professor of the History of Science Everett I. Mendelsohn, then a prominent anti-war activist.

"By '69-'70, the wrongness of the war became fairly widely acknowledged, and yet it went on. The government kept doing foolish things," he says. "It created a sense among students and faculty that the powers of sanity and thoughtful appraisal had left the government."

Harvard and the Government

Students were not the only ones struggling for change at Harvard. The Nixon administration, anxious to suppress student uprisings, passed a series of bills designed to stop the flow of aid to campuses with a history of radical activities. Harvard, with its recent history of political demonstration, was one target.

Congressional education funding and Defense Department research grants were debated both in Congress and at Harvard. Conservatives and radicals both favored yanking government spending from colleges--for very different reasons.

The Mansfield Amendment, sponsored by anti-war activists in Congress hoping to lessen the Defense Department's influence on universities, cut off all funds granted by the Defense Department to colleges unless they had a direct bearing on the war in Vietnam.

"War Hawks" like John Stennis and GeneralWestmoreland were also busy--they proposed cuttingoff funds to all colleges at which "there is asubstantial disruption of the administrations, orwhere professors or officials are prevented frompursuing their studies or duties."

In the spring of 1969, Harvard was seen by manypoliticians in Washington as a "substantiallydisrupted" campus--and rightfully so. Whenstudents returned to classes in the fall, theyfound their school as polarized as ever.

On September 25, Shannon Hall, the location ofthe Center for International Affairs (CFIA),suffered a violent bomb attack by theWeathermen--a radical splinter of SDS. Theexplosion caused physical damage to the buildingand ignited fear around campus.

The CFIA, a center for faculty research oneconomic development, arms control and studies ofunderdeveloped countries, was primarily funded bythe conservative Ford Foundation.

Students claimed that the research was thenused by the government to suppress liberationmovements around the world. "The CFIA was prettymuch the CIA," Anne V. Bastian '70 recalls. "Wedidn't like it much."

Like Congress, students were reexamining thegovernment's relationship with Harvard. Studentsseriously questioned many long-standingconnections between Harvard and a government manyof them abhorred as "deaf, dumb and blind."

Uprisings throughout the year underscored thisdeepening doubt. On April 9, an SDS-sponsoredstudent demonstration broke up a meeting of theCFIA visiting committee and resulted in thedisciplining of 18 students, two of whom wereordered to leave the college.

Uneasiness about the government's relationshipwith Harvard also resulted in the severing ofHarvard's official ties with the CambridgeProject, a federally funded think-tank.

Bankrolled by the Defense Department, theofficial purpose of the Cambridge Project was touse computers for basic research into socialscience methodology, conducted by Harvard and MITprofessors.

But student radicals charged that the productof the computer research would be used forcounter-insurgency operations, and many members ofHarvard's Faculty supported the students'opposition.

John Womack Jr., an assistant professor ofhistory at the time, summed up anti-war studentfeeling when he said: "I suspect that the peoplegetting the most out of the Project will be theDefense Department, and at this moment in Americanpolitics, I don't trust Defense to make the use ofit I would like."

A University review board rescinded any formalalliance between the Project and Harvard. Thecommittee said it would allow individualprofessors to work for it if they chose.

Fear and the Draft

Though Harvard students weren't entering thearmy with regularity, theB-5WARPhoto Courtesy Harvard YearbookState Police stormed University Hallfollowing the student takeover of thebuilding.

"War Hawks" like John Stennis and GeneralWestmoreland were also busy--they proposed cuttingoff funds to all colleges at which "there is asubstantial disruption of the administrations, orwhere professors or officials are prevented frompursuing their studies or duties."

In the spring of 1969, Harvard was seen by manypoliticians in Washington as a "substantiallydisrupted" campus--and rightfully so. Whenstudents returned to classes in the fall, theyfound their school as polarized as ever.

On September 25, Shannon Hall, the location ofthe Center for International Affairs (CFIA),suffered a violent bomb attack by theWeathermen--a radical splinter of SDS. Theexplosion caused physical damage to the buildingand ignited fear around campus.

The CFIA, a center for faculty research oneconomic development, arms control and studies ofunderdeveloped countries, was primarily funded bythe conservative Ford Foundation.

Students claimed that the research was thenused by the government to suppress liberationmovements around the world. "The CFIA was prettymuch the CIA," Anne V. Bastian '70 recalls. "Wedidn't like it much."

Like Congress, students were reexamining thegovernment's relationship with Harvard. Studentsseriously questioned many long-standingconnections between Harvard and a government manyof them abhorred as "deaf, dumb and blind."

Uprisings throughout the year underscored thisdeepening doubt. On April 9, an SDS-sponsoredstudent demonstration broke up a meeting of theCFIA visiting committee and resulted in thedisciplining of 18 students, two of whom wereordered to leave the college.

Uneasiness about the government's relationshipwith Harvard also resulted in the severing ofHarvard's official ties with the CambridgeProject, a federally funded think-tank.

Bankrolled by the Defense Department, theofficial purpose of the Cambridge Project was touse computers for basic research into socialscience methodology, conducted by Harvard and MITprofessors.

But student radicals charged that the productof the computer research would be used forcounter-insurgency operations, and many members ofHarvard's Faculty supported the students'opposition.

John Womack Jr., an assistant professor ofhistory at the time, summed up anti-war studentfeeling when he said: "I suspect that the peoplegetting the most out of the Project will be theDefense Department, and at this moment in Americanpolitics, I don't trust Defense to make the use ofit I would like."

A University review board rescinded any formalalliance between the Project and Harvard. Thecommittee said it would allow individualprofessors to work for it if they chose.

Fear and the Draft

Though Harvard students weren't entering thearmy with regularity, theB-5WARPhoto Courtesy Harvard YearbookState Police stormed University Hallfollowing the student takeover of thebuilding.

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

Tags