The Great Harvard Sex Scandal of 1964

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“When Dean Watson made that statement it was a bit of a fish out of water in terms of our thinking of the place.”


After the debate that was sparked in 1963, parietals were soon eliminated, but not in the manner that administrators expected.

The gap between students and the administration that was catalyzed by The Great Harvard Sex Scandal was exacerbated as the '60s progressed. On top of other student protest, in 1969,  then College President Nathan M. Pusey ’28 was forcibly removed by students from Mass. Hall as students protested the Vietnam War.

“Being a college dean then was like living in the public square of a small city inhabited by aliens,” Watson, who was also one of nine administrators dragged out of Mass. Hall, said in 1987. “There was no place to take refuge from the maddening crowd.”

To some, though Harvard students’ pushback against the administration’s parietal rules seemed like a singular event that minorly upset the College, in hindsight, it was the beginning of a transformative generational shift.

“We just considered it to be an invasion of privacy,” Purvis said. “But I don’t think we had the perspective that we have now about the ’60s being a decade of change.”

In 1971, a co-residency program was put into place, allowing men and women to live in the same dorms. For administrators today, the changes over the past 50 years have dispelled the fears that Watson, Monro, and other administrators of the time held about changing mores.

"When they went to having co-ed housing...the naysayers were imagining there would be all sorts of bad behavior but it didn't work out that way," Dingman said.

—Staff writer Tyler S. Olkowski can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @OlkowskiTyler.