Memory of Takeover Still Haunts Those Students, Faculty Who Saw It Happen

It was 30 years this April since the takeover of University Hall by radical student protestors and the bloody "bust" by state and local police. But in some ways the smoke still hasn't cleared. The players in this drama still argue over who were the true barbarians--the building's occupiers or those who ejected them. Today's student activists struggle with their predecessors' legacy of destructive but successful radicalism. Two days of living dangerously have given way to three decades of reaction, regret and reflection.

When the Class of 1969 met at their 25th reunion five years ago, the class that epitomized Harvard radicalism had become a collection of lawyers, business men, doctors and professors. But even after more than two decades, this class was still somehow different.

When University President Neil L. Rudenstine and Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles addressed the class, according to one audience member, the crowd saw "administrative bullshit" where other reunion classes had seen just welcoming pleasantries.

Any hint that the two officials were not telling the whole truth and the crowd reacted with a suspicious murmur not typical of 1,000 well-educated professionals in their late 40s.

"It took about 40 seconds for this crowd to turn on these guys," said Robert D. Luskin '69, a WHRB reporter in the spring of 1969. "Everybody experienced the same visceral reaction."

Thirty years now separates Harvard from the fateful spring day in 1969 when students stormed and occupied University Hall before being forcibly ejected by local police early the next morning.


No one chronicling the strike has ever aimed at objectivity--1997's Coming Apart by former Dunster House Senior Tutor and Master Roger Rosenblatt, the most recent work on the strike, primarily focused on his personal recollections.

This is likely because no two witnesses to the events of 1969 see them in the same way. But in the years since the strike and the bust brought activism home to Harvard, all say they have learned vivid lessons from the morning where a hundred things that could never have happened at Harvard suddenly did.

Changing Times

The Class of 1969 came to Harvard at a strange time: a changing student body in a very traditional college atmosphere meant that radical students were sometimes disciplined simply for not wearing ties to dinner.

But a wave of student radicalism sparking riots and protests across the country could not be held back even by Harvard's formidable traditions. The campus was thrown into tumult by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), whose protests gained momentum through 1969 to the April takeover of University Hall.

At different corners of the campus that spring were five people swept up by the events happening around them.

Richard E. Hyland '69 was a prominent SDS member at the time of the takeover but not involved in the leadership. Michael Kazin '72, the embattled SDS leader, asked him to preside over the building's occupiers primarily because he was not involved with internal SDS political wrangling.

Kenneth M. Glazier '69, who was a pastpresident of the Student Faculty AdvisoryCommittee (SFAC), had experience in subduedcommittee meetings but never in any sort of massarena. And it was Glazier who ended up trying tocreate order during the morning-after MemorialChurch meeting and ended up chairing the MemorialChurch group.

Alan E. Heimert '49 had only been recentlytoiling away as a junior Faculty member and hadjust received tenure as the Cabot Professor ofAmerican Literature, along with taking the reinsof Eliot House in 1968 as its master. Heimertwould lead the Committee of Fifteen, anadministrative body which decided the fate of themost egregious offenders.

Jon D. Levenson '71 was a sophomore in AdamsHouse at the time and among a minority of studentswho did not support the ideas, let alone thetactics, of SDS. He approved of the decision byHarvard President Nathan M. Pusey '28 to send inthe local police.

Peter Wood was a graduate student, a teachingfellow and an assistant senior tutor in EliotHouse. Part student, part faculty, and partadministrator, he had to deal with all factions oncampus regardless of his personal loyalties.