Opioids, the Bauhaus, legacy admissions
As an activist in the Harvard Strike of 1969 and the SDS speaker at the 1969 Commencement ceremony, I welcome the retrospective in the March-April issue (“Echoes of 1969,” page 52). However, the article trivializes the events of April 1969 in important ways. Some recollections focus on unimportant details from the authors’ lives, such as Fox News commentator Chris Wallace bragging about “making a great over-the-shoulder catch” in a touch football game the day the strike began. Others focus on unimportant consequences of the strike, such as abolishing the rule requiring male students to wear coats and ties to dinner, mentioned by Richard Hyland.
Mostly absent from the recollections is the real reason the strike occurred: the brutal war in Vietnam that killed 58,000 Americans; 1.1 million North Vietnamese rebels; 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers; and 2 million civilians. Harvard provided crucial support for this war: with military officers trained by ROTC; as a recruiting ground for companies like Dow Chemical; and with political operatives like Henry Kissinger.
Against all odds, the people of Vietnam ultimately vanquished the armies of the most powerful nation on earth, ending the war. The Harvard Strike was an important event that undermined the will and the ability of the U.S. government to continue that war. That is why the strike happened, and that is why it is important.
Much has changed. Vietnam is no longer the enemy. But we struggle with a president who promises to block all Muslims from entering the country, and to erect a 2,000-mile wall across our southern border. The fight for a just, inclusive, and democratic society must continue. As we pass the torch, we call upon the students and faculty at Harvard today to show the same dedication, courage, and commitment that was shown by the participants in the 1969 strike.
Bruce C. Allen ’69
Speak Up, Please
Harvard Magazine welcomes letters on its contents. Please write to “Letters,” Harvard Magazine, 7 Ware Street, Cambridge 02138, or send comments by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
During the 1969 occupation of University Hall, one of my professors, Nathan Glazer, stood nearby quietly surveying the scene. A respected member of New York’s liberal intelligentsia, he and others were now being labeled the “Old Left,” while a younger generation, including members of SDS, Democratic Socialists, the Progressive Labor Party, and others were neologized as the “New Left.”
Both factions generally sought a redistribution of society’s resources to eliminate the extremes of wealth and poverty in America. But they were polarized along fault lines predicated on how that goal should be achieved. Among some New Lefties, securing power by force was now justifiable, so distrusting were they of conventional democratic institutions and processes. But for Old Lefties, such a premise was a nonstarter.
Accordingly, Glazer approached a small cluster of radicals, panic in his voice, his hands shaking.
“Don’t you see what you’re doing?” he implored. “This is exactly how Hitler created the Third Reich! He convinced Germans that democratic processes were regressive. He glorified force…and discrimination…and…suppression.”
A few students cheered Glazer while others tried to shout him into silence. But he would not yield.
“Y-you’re playing right into the hands of the right wing, the fascists, in this country,” he stammered. “They can use the occupation to justify vilifying people who support progressive social policies.”
The drama I witnessed that day cut to the very core of the democratic experience. No matter how urgent or how defensible one’s goals may be, process—in the final analysis—is far more important than product. How fortunate I was to have witnessed Glazer’s display of intellectual courage, a lesson that has remained with me throughout my scholarly career.
Dennis E. Gale, M.Ed. ’69
Professor Emeritus, Rutgers;
Thank goodness for Mark Helprin, a lonely voice. For the record I received my B.A. in 1968 and was at the B School, the one area of the University which emphatically did not support the shutdown.
What followed has been 50 years of a subtly orchestrated, culturally enforced, restriction of free thinking (presented by the Orwellian name of Free Thinking), along with a tightening of the mandated image of the properly reeducated and spiffed-up life as a good citizen, which functions as the major purpose of Harvard. I wonder: how many graduates and Harvard minions have even noticed this? Has a person with dirt on her hands or an imperfectly done tie ever appeared in a Harvard publication? I have frequently been amused when the classmates whose notes in anniversary reports most skillfully exuded secular righteousness end up called on one carpet or another for ethical infractions.
Harvard imposes its own model for the correct living of a life. How dare they? Sterility is at its core. To avoid it I should have stuck to math and physics or gone to MIT. All in all I learned better things from uneducated dudes I served with in Vietnam and ordinary folks putting together their highly individual lives. Life isn’t like the Stepfordish image promulgated by Harvard and astonishingly accepted by so many thousands strong in brainpower but weak in will and independent thinking. This article sums my argument for never recommending Harvard to the bright kids I continue to work with (professor, now tennis pro). When asked where I went to school I say, “Harvard, but it didn’t take.”
James Sloan ’65, B ’70
River Forest, Ill.
Professor Hyland is correct that “Most of these [post-bust and occupation] changes would have happened anyway.” Indeed, some of them occurred before the occupation and the bust. Many of my freshman classmates in the fall of 1968 wore dashikis to the Freshman Union for their meals, and the coat-and-tie dress code disappeared before the spring semester. Enforcement of parietal rules had disappeared at least from Stoughton North by the same time. As for the structural changes enumerated by Professor Hyland that actually did occur after the occupation and bust, the argument that the occupation “contributed…a sense of urgency” seems a wistful attempt to appear as an actor on history’s stage.
Thomas Pippert ’72, J.D. ’75
New York City
To add to your series of compelling reflections on 1969, I had my own unique experience. I was in the final stages of my doctoral dissertation at Harvard (“The Latvian Communist Party Under Soviet Rule”) in January 1969 when I became a reporter for United Press International in Boston. On the night of April 9, 1969, UPI received a tip that the police would forcibly remove the demonstrators from University Hall early the next morning, and I was assigned to cover the bust. So there I was at 5 a.m., standing on the steps of Widener Library—where I had spent hundreds of hours doing research and writing—documenting the invasion of Harvard Yard by hundreds of helmeted police with their billy clubs. And a bloody “invasion” it was, still one of the most searing memories of my life. Many of the police took full advantage of the long-awaited “opportunity” to pummel the privileged students whom they had always resented. It was a sickening sight. After University Hall was cleared and the students were arrested, I raced back to the UPI bureau and filed my story, which landed on the front page of dozens of newspapers around the country later that day and the next morning.
I took part in the ensuing strike with my two-year-old-son Rick. He was featured on the cover of one of the strike bulletins wearing the ubiquitous “Strike” T-shirt with clenched fist, identical to the one on the cover of your magazine. At the ensuing graduation I joined hundreds of others in wearing a black armband over our robes, and to my surprise my photo appeared in a Newsweek spread on campus protests across America.
I have lived near Cambridge ever since, so on occasion I walk through Harvard Yard. And I am always carried back to that moment—standing on the steps of Widener, watching the Soviet-like invasion and violence. It may have been a mini-version of the Soviet ouster of Dub ˇcek in Czechoslovakia eight months earlier, but the parallels have always lived with me.
Michael Widmer, Ph.D. ’69
We, initiators of and participants in the occupation of University Hall in 1969, and supporters of the demands of the ensuing strike, were happy to see the magazine explore the events of April 1969. However, we were disappointed that the retrospective captured neither our nor the Harvard administration’s motivations and actions. We believe the events were important enough to justify a more thorough approach.
The occupation of University Hall was the culmination of years of thinking, petitioning, planning, and canvassing. The war in Vietnam, racism, and Harvard’s destructive incursion into neighboring working class communities—all these and more were the subject of intense discussions in classrooms, hallways, dorm rooms, and on the street. We mounted multiple campaigns to no avail. Student government organizations voted to abolish ROTC, and the faculty voted to withdraw academic credit for ROTC, and both were ignored by the Corporation and senior administrators. This reality led us to make what might be considered a last-resort move—escalating to militant civil disobedience. We knew the risks. Harvard had already meted out hundreds of probations, suspensions, and losses of scholarship for, among other things, the Dow Chemical recruitment demonstration.
In 1969, Harvard thought it knew best about everything and escalated to repression almost immediately. The administration suggested that challenging its authority threatened the very foundations of civilized society. Some punishments escalated to permanent expulsions and, a couple of years later, to incarceration. Yes, two University Hall occupants were charged with assault—an “assault” that consisted of gently escorting Dean Watson out, as per his request to signal that he disagreed with us. Ironically, he initially pressed charges against one student, who was convicted, and then, when one of the actual escorts came forward to correct an injustice, changed his testimony to ensure they were convicted and jailed. (They served nine months.) Watson later apologized privately and helped one of them get into law school despite the criminal record.
Knowing this, your readers may better understand Robert Hall’s recollection, which captures Harvard’s attitude: believing that black students were planning a Widener Library search-and-destroy mission. Racism, sexism, and authoritarianismare accurate words to describe the character of most of Harvard’s leadership in 1969. There were only three women on the faculty, reproductive services were illegal, the university provided no child-care services, and most women working on campus were in dead-end, poverty-level positions. Given that reality, the retrospective’s first sentence mystifies us. “In the late 1960’s American society seemed in crisis.” America was in crisis.
Harvard’s leadership was serious about keeping ROTC and not creating an Afro American Studies program. We and college activists across the country were equally serious about eliminating ROTC, reasoning that its loss would deprive the armed services of its primary source of junior officers, which would significantly impede the prosecution of an immoral and criminal war. We want your readers to understand that we weren’t frivolous and were largely, though not always completely, successful at planning and maintaining an orderly presence.
We cannot help but wonder how Harvard will respond to the increasing activism among today’s students? Today President Bacow continues Drew Faust’s insistence that the endowment is not an appropriate instrument for social change. According to a Crimson poll, most of the faculty feel differently. This is hopeful, but it didn’t help in 1969, and it may not in 2019 as long as the administration refuses to use the university’s vast resources to respond to such critical issues as climate change.
The magazine’s retrospective diminishes the possibility of learning from history, and of nourishing civil public discourse. If Harvard doesn’t embrace history’s complexity and candid discussions of the issues before us, it is doomed to be on the wrong side of history again.
Signed: E John Pennington ’67 (probation, suspended, lost scholarship); Nate Goldshlag ’71 (suspended, never returned); John Berg, Ph.D. ’75 (expelled, convicted of assault and battery, imprisoned for 9 months, readmitted 1972 by 2/3 faculty vote); Carl Offner, Ph.D. ’78 (expelled, convicted of assault and battery, case later dismissed, readmitted 1977 by 2/3 faculty vote); Sue Jhirad ’64, Ph.D. ’72 (expelled, readmitted to complete Ph.D., told to stay away from campus); Alan Gilbert ’65, Ph.D. ’74 (twice suspended, separated, readmitted 1973 by 2/3 faculty vote); Judith Kauffman Baker ’70 (suspended, lost scholarship, unable to get graduate school assistance); Ginny Vogel Zanger ’70 (suspended, banned from campus for 2 years); Stu Soloway ’70 (suspended); Mary Summers ’70; Kenneth Kronenberg (non-Harvard member H-R SDS; arrested in University Hall occupation); Neil Koblitz ’69 (suspended suspension); Cheyney Ryan ’70 (suspended, convicted of criminal trespass, never returned); David Holmstrom, Ph.D. ’75 (warned); Art Small ’69; Dick Cluster ’68; Sara Glazer ’70 (probation); Brook K. Baker ’69; Stephen Bezruchka, A.M. ’68; Lucy Candib ’68; Judy Norsigian ’70; Henry Norr ’68; Lucy Marx ’72; Judy Smith ’70; Mike Prokosch ’70; Carlin Meyer ’69; Katha Pollitt ’71; Arthur Dion ’68; Michael Schwartz, Ph.D. ’72 (expelled, banned from campus, readmitted by 2/3 faculty vote, 1972); Mark Liberman ’69 (expelled); Doug Myers ’68; Lolli Delli-Bovi ’71; Antonia Ristorcelli Forster ’71; Naomi Shapiro ’71 (suspended suspension, left and never returned); Toby Sackton ’68; Katherine Kaufer Christoffel ’69; Susan Volman ’69; Robert Krim ’70; Dave Loud ’68; Tom Christoffel, J.D. ’67; Barry Margolin ’70; Leslie Davidson ’70; David Holmstrom, Ph.D. ’75 (warned); Alan Garfinkel, Ph.D. ’75; Emily Huntington Bailey ’69; Norm Daniels, Ph.D. ’70; Michael Macey ’70, Ph.D. ’75; Ben Brooks ’70; Jamie Kilbreth ’69; Beth Harvey Kilbreth ’71; Milton Kotelchuck, Ph.D. ’72; Jamie Robins ’71; Michael Weissman ’70; Fran Ansley ’69; Sylvia Lester ’70; Don King ’68; Carl Pomerance, Ph.D. ’72
As an SDS member and University Hall alum: Beautifully written by all participants and obviously deeply felt. As it was at the time. There is a lot of meaning in this piece, not just elegy. Congratulations.
Delia O’Connor ’70
The fist-centered cover of the March-April magazine reminded me that not all of us students supported the strike that April.
An 18-year-old freshman 50 years ago, I saw a campus dominated by SDS-generated unrest. I could not enter or exit the Yard that year without being handed a leaflet protesting something. The evening after the “bust” at University Hall, I heard fellow Pennypacker classmates, upon their release from jail, shouting expletives laden with invective for President Pusey. I think it was the next morning when an SDS member barged into our chemistry lecture hall, demanding to read a statement announcing the strike. After he left, our professor, an elderly gentleman with a European accent, calmly said that he had not experienced anything like that since the day Brownshirts invaded his classroom in the 1930s.
Later, I attended the large meeting in Harvard Stadium, sitting in a spot near the closed end. I remember being surprised to see the teaching fellow for my American history class section leading the meeting. It may have been Dr. Buhl, one of those participants editor Craig Lambert selected to reflect on those events. Buhl wrote that the meeting did “fulfill the moderate hopes” to “bring the Harvard community together toward a fairly quick de-escalation of the crisis and a return to normalcy,” for not long afterward, classes resumed, things settling down by May.
After exams, I took a leave of absence to do an active-duty stint in the Marine Corps. By the time I returned to Harvard in 1972, the mood on campus was far different, the ROTC program banned, the war ending soon, the draft functioning under a seemingly fairer lottery system. It was as if the strike of 1969 and the fiery riots and university shutdown following the invasion of Cambodia in the spring of 1970 had never occurred. There were no leaflets, no signs of SDS. The Yard was a strangely quiet place.
David Cornish ’72
As one of the editors of “The Choices We Made: Class of ’67 Responses to the Vietnam War,” for our fiftieth reunion, I read all of the excellent “Echoes of 1969” essays with great interest; and I also was left with a clear sense of wishing that I had known “Jet” Thomas.
Tim Hatfield ’67, Ed.M. ’69
On page 57, Chris Wallace remembers signing off an April 9, 1969, news report from the Middlesex County jail to Harvard’s radio station, WHRB, with the line, “This is Chris Wallace in custody.”
For the record, the same phrasing was immortalized five years earlier by John Chancellor, NBC reporter, as he was dragged from the floor of the 1964 Republican National Convention: “This is John Chancellor, somewhere in custody.”
Robert A. Brown, Ph.D. ’71
Green Valley, Ariz.
I am writing to provide what I know of the prelude to the takeover of University Hall in the spring of 1969. Since your article and the ones to which it linked do not identify the individuals directly involved, I will not either.
I was a philosophy major. My tutorial leader held some of the tutorial meetings at his apartment in East Cambridge or Somerville, somewhere in that direction. As I understood it at that time, he was the chairman or co-chairman of the Progressive Labor Party, which had a Maoist orientation. In any event, at his apartment, the tutor had a wooden bookcase with sliding glass doors behind which he kept a complete set of what we then called the Peking Press edition of the works of Chairman Mao. There were several shelves of volumes. As I recall, they all had a sort of creamy to tan-colored thick paper cover. One of the things I particularly noted, as a former 12-year Catholic-school student, was that each volume had red ribbon attached to the spine so you could mark your place, just like you could with a missal.
Our last tutorial before spring break was at the tutor’s apartment. We sat cross-legged on the floor through the session. At the end, the tutor said we had covered quite a bit of material and had had a good semester, etc., the sort of thing you would expect at the end of the semester. I was puzzled. So were some others. Someone said that we had at least a month left after spring break and wouldn’t we be having any more sessions then? The tutor responded, without explaining more, that when we came back from spring break we would see an announcement posted around the Yard for a meeting and, after that meeting, school would be over for the year.
After returning from spring break, I persuaded one of my friends, now deceased, to go to the meeting with me. It started fairly early in the evening, maybe around 7:00 p.m. Several hundred people attended. My tutor was on the stage. The first thing I noticed was that quite a few of the people milling about on the stage had brought suitcases with them. Something more than just a meeting was planned. When the meeting started, the first order of business was to eject reporters from the media, including one from the Boston Globe. That carried. Next, discussion of the agenda started: kicking ROTC off campus, the black studies program, etc. Shortly into the debate, a “straw vote” was held on a resolution to take over University Hall. Through four or so hours of continuing debate and countless further “straw votes,” that resolution never passed, although the number opposed declined as the night wore on and people left the meeting.
Around midnight, the proponents gave up for the night and instead proposed to march on the president’s house and to resume the meeting the next morning in the Yard. That resolution passed. At that point my friend and I went home.
I was not able to go to the meeting in the Yard the next morning, but my friend did so. He told me that as soon as the meeting started, and without further debate, my tutor seized the mike and yelled something to the effect of “On to University Hall.” The rest is described in the articles linked to your website, although I do not recall if any of them mention what, to me, was the dramatic effect after the bust, of people walking around the campus with bloodstained white bandages on their heads.
Kenneth P. Taube ’71
Long Grove, Ill.
In this issue, Harvard Magazine congratulated Harvard people who played a significant role in enabling Vietnamese Stalinists and Cambodian psychopaths to murder more than two million Indochinese. Now the magazine owes an issue to Harvard people who helped Indochinese people defend themselves, unsuccessfully in Laos, South Vietnam, and Cambodia, thankfully successfully in Thailand.
Elder John Manion, M.Div. ’83
It was interesting to read the very different experiences and perspectives on the Strike of ’69. I would like to add my own, as a teaching fellow at the time and a participant in the occupation, beating, and arrests. If I recall, I was one of the only women on the Strike Steering Committee. While impressions, experiences, and points of view may differ, there are a few glaring omissions in the accounts, and one outright lie—Mark Helprin’s statement that “the girls” were pushed to the front and the strike leaders deliberately escaped harm themselves. Actually, the leaders of the occupation, those who carried the deans out of their offices, most from the PL faction of SDS, received the most severe penalties—expulsion, and in one case imprisonment for months. Others, including one wonderful former student of mine, actually joined the military in the brave if deluded view that they could “oppose the war from within.” He, sadly, died of AIDS years later.
Not addressed enough in your accounts, I believe, was that the occupation and strike were, in part at least, aimed at Harvard’s own complicity in the war. Professors like Samuel Huntington, one of the architects of the cruel “strategic hamlets project,” and other present and former professors, like Henry Kissinger, were knee deep in the war. The “rifling of the files” revealed more examples of secret support for the war by the university.
I was a graduate student at the time, not in any faction of SDS, but deeply committed to ending the war. I had a two-year-old child, and was unsure about joining the occupation and getting arrested, but once it occurred, I felt morally obliged to do so. The occupation itself was debated at a mass meeting beforehand, where it was voted to wait and make sure the campus itself was convinced of our actions before taking such drastic action. The PL faction, it is true, decided on their own to do it, and the rest of us were faced with the existential choice—to join them or leave them to be arrested alone. At one point, there were close to 400 of us inside University Hall. We debated, listened to speeches by various professors urging us to leave, but decided to stay. Law-school students stood outside, to monitor police action. Around dawn, the tactical police crashed in. We all tried to leave, but many were bashed over the head by the police as we were herded into police vans. To my horror, I actually witnessed the then dean of students (name forgotten) seemingly encouraging a tactical policeman as he beat a student, who was lying on the ground.
It is true that it was the extreme violence and bloodiness of the university’s reaction, as well any opposition to the war, that created the strike that shut down the university for the rest of the year. I was kicked out of school because I had participated in the Dow Chemical demonstration the year before, with a sanctimonious letter saying that “non-violent disobedience” like Martin Luther King or Gandhi was fine, but not my “violence.” (I was never violent, though certainly disobedient.) Later, I was allowed to return and complete my Ph.D.
Twenty years later, there was a Strike Reunion at Harvard, amazingly attended by more than 200 people who had been profoundly affected by the experience. When we reflected on what had occurred then, and listened to a tape of the faculty meeting that ensued, we were shocked to realize that in some ways, “We had actually won.” Harvard ended its ROTC program (one of our demands), turning the ROTC building into a day-care center. It also adopted a Black Studies Program, a demand of the African-American students at the time. We also spoke in support of the student activists of ’89, then involved in unionization efforts for workers, and a demand to divest Harvard stocks from apartheid-era South Africa. We danced, laughed, held forums, and most of all, as well known poet and writer Katha Pollitt said, “We weren’t sorry then, and we’re not sorry now.”
In my opinion, anything we may have done, no matter how immature at times, to help shorten the Vietnam War, which killed millions of Vietnamese and thousands of American soldiers, was worth it. It has been documented in recently revealed Nixon tapes that the anti-war movement did have a role in persuading Nixon to finally end that disastrous war.
Susan Jhirad ’64, Ph.D. ’72
Whether Mark Helprin is correct or mistaken in asserting that leaders of the University Hall occupation “escaped out of the statue side of the building,” his ire at those who “let others take the hit” is appropriately Harvardian.
When a “gentleman of property and education” was charged with violating the Fugitive Slave Law by aiding African Americans who rushed the Boston Courthouse to rescue an alleged fugitive slave, his lawyer, Richard Henry Dana Jr., A.B. 1837, LL.B. ’39, LL.D. ’66, argued that no person “of the ancient Pilgrim stock” would dishonor himself by instigating others “to an act he dares not commit himself, putting forward obscure men to dare dangers from which he screens himself.”
The judge dismissed the charge.
Jeffrey Amestoy, M.P.A. ’82
Waterbury Center, Vt.
You did a wonderful job in your feature article on the 1960s at Harvard. But in “Craig Lambert Reflects” (March-April, page 60), there’s an unfortunate omission. He cites the French and Russian revolutions as similar experiences for the participants. But we must remember that before 1789 or 1917 were the 1760s, when our forefathers stood up to British rule. I’m studying a book called Revolutionary Dissent by Stephen Solomon, which details the outstanding courage and ingenuity that went into that historic struggle. There were years of intimidation, confrontation. and punishment while these brave colonists struggled for their liberty. I insist that our students of the 1960s acted in that tradition. So, you could say that the French and Russians followed in our footsteps!
Kitty Beer ’59
Again Harvard Magazine reports significantly incomplete memories and meanings of April 9-12 and following, 1969, leaving out an essential component of those events and days: the role of Harvard Divinity School (HDS) in the participation in the occupation of University Hall, the content of that occupation, the causes of the bust and follow-up strike, and today’s ongoing institutional anguish.
On April 9, 1969, the president of the HDS student body, a veteran of the civil-rights struggle, a member of SDS from Williams College, and a devotee of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., appealed to the assembly in the Yard to join the occupation in the manner of the nonviolent strategies of Jesus Christ and Dr. King. This appeal was broadcast on Boston Public Radio. At this critical moment, the occuation of the hall was losing strength. Many responded to the call and the occupation of the hall and areas immediately around the building increased dramatically. Rather than a destructive occupation, easy to label unacceptable and illegal, the occupation became an assembly of disobedience, more clearly focused on the demands for an end to Harvard investments in a military adventure in Southeast Asia, intrustion in neighboring communities, attention to black American history and grievances, and reform of the governance and content of the University. The reality of the occupation changed, but the perceptions of the officers of the University did not. The subsequent bust was unnecessary and self-defeating. Love is greater than force.
The placement of hundreds of white crosses in the Yard following the bust, the refusal of HDS faculty to submit to the Fellows’ order to expel the participants in the occupation, the care of HDS for jailed University Hall occupants, and numerous negotiations coordinated by HDS members were clarion witnesses to the religious foundations of Harvard College.
Stephan H. Hornberger, B.D. ’70
Imagine watching the evening news and thinking your life’s work has just been thrown out a window of University Hall.
That was the situation for my late father, James E. Bland ’62, Ph.D.’ 69, when he screamed to my mother in the kitchen of their graduate-school apartment on Fernald Drive to come watch what was happening on TV. He had given his one and only copy of his American history dissertation to the departmental secretary in order for her to type up a final version for submission (apparently customary in those days). Yet, much to his dismay, as he watched the news on that fateful evening of April 9, he saw books, files, and papers being strewn out of windows (as described by Lucy Fisher in your March-April story [see page 56]).
As my father was lamenting the fact that four years’ worth of work was now floating away, the phone rang and it was none other than the history department secretary who said that not only had she escaped the building, but she had managed to leave with one hidden possession, under her trenchcoat: a dissertation.
Setting aside all of the other more philosophical “memories and meanings” gleaned from 1969, my family has magnified the memory of that secretary’s kind heroism and memorialized a much more prosaic meaning of the day: always keep a back-up.
Richard F. Bland, M.T.S. ’04
I was there in April 1969 when Harvard’s University Hall was occupied by a unruly cohort of protestors. I was dismayed by the escorting of deans and other officials out into the emotional, disorganized crowd.
Fourteen years earlier, I had graduated from The Ohio State University in 1955 and begun working for the National Security Agency.
I was enrolled at Harvard in 1969 as a Kennedy School graduate student selected under government sponsorship to undertake a full mid-career federal employee year—all expenses paid—in pursuit of a master in public administration degree.
I was a hawk. I was proud to be a U.S. government employee. I thought we could win the war in Vietnam. I was committed to providing intelligence information to our leaders on the adversaries of the time.
At the protest, I realized I was engulfed by the crowd and noted that in the view of the protestors, I was a stereotype of “the establishment” against which they were railing. My trendy attire and crew cut contrasted dramatically with long hair, disheveled clothes, intensity of purpose.
I left the scene and learned later about the police dragging the occupiers to waiting paddy-wagons.
I finished my academic year and proudly marched in the Commencement procession. Discussions about changes in courses and culture continued throughout the University and the open exchange is freer among faculty and students, as I understand today’s situation.
I sometimes reflect on special moments in my lengthy career. The Harvard year stands out. I now can comfortably remain a traditionalist while accommodating innovating movements and ideas without giving up basic principles. There is something magisterially inclusive about Harvard’s commitment to truth. 1969 was a principal catalyst for a new era.
Bernard G. Elliker, M.P.A. ’69
Ellicott City, Md.
While I appreciate Harvard Magazine’s attention to the events of April 1969, I was dismayed to see them treated as an abstract retrospective and as separate from their context—especially given the parallels with this upcoming spring 50 years later. The article missed the most important aspect of those events: why we felt so compelled to act. American society did not “seem to be” in deep crisis, as the article has it. It was in deep crisis. Despite the civil- rights movement, racism was a vicious and dangerous reality for millions of people. Social and economic inequality were rife, and the war in Vietnam, which took advantage of both, was claiming thousands of American lives (and millions of Vietnamese ones) in the service of imperial ambition and corporate profit. We witnessed these things: the myths of wholesomeness that we had been fed on TV and in our schools were no longer believable. That was the real crisis; we understood that we were being lied to.
That was the backdrop of the occupation of University Hall, which was no sudden uprising, but the culmination of years of effort. Harvard-Radcliffe SDS tried for years to get Harvard to listen to our concerns about its implication in the Vietnam war, but Harvard turned a deaf ear. The faculty and student government organizations voted to abolish ROTC; the Corporation and senior administrators ignored them. We knew all about Samuel Huntington and the strategic hamlet project, and about the role Henry Kissinger played in the war. But even we were shocked to learn just how deeply Harvard was implicated in that criminal war when SDS members read the files stored in University Hall.
Were our transgressions greater than the University’s? It’s hard to imagine so, yet many of us paid a high price. We tried to find an ear; we failed. We protested, and the harder we tried the higher the price was. Some of us were expelled for participating in the protests against recruitment on campus by Dow Chemical, producer of napalm. (One of us, a chemistry major, was told by napalm’s inventor, a professor of his, that scientists had no business questioning what their research was used for.) Some of us were jailed for our acts of civil disobedience, and sometimes on the basis of false witness. But we did what we did because it mattered, because we were trying to build a vision of a compassionate and responsible society to replace the disingenuous myth we had grown up with. The Harvard Magazine piece leaves us asking ourselves to what extent we succeeded. We learned plenty in April of 1969. Did Harvard?
It doesn’t seem so. In 2019, American society is again in crisis. It has no compelling, humane, or even reasonable vision of a future for its children. Income inequality is unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. Politicians deflect attention from it—and protect it—by encouraging racism, misogyny, and xenophobia. Wars continue; new ones are threatened. The few controllers of the new technologies (some of famously Harvardian pedigree) thrive richly, while millions of jobs that pay enough to live on disappear. The rising generation is saddled with $1.5 trillion in educational debt (and counting), the kind of debt that turns people into virtual slaves unable to pursue worthwhile but less remunerative goals. Diseases of despair are shortening life expectancy. The possibility that fossil-fuel-induced climate change could destroy our civilization is no longer a science-fiction fantasy. Yet newly installed president Lawrence Bacow, echoing his predecessor Drew Faust, states blithely that “The endowment should not be used… as an instrument of social policy.” In fact, all investment is an instrument of social policy. And just what does it say to young people that Faust joined the board of Goldman Sachs a few days after stepping down?
What about educational policy, then? Yes, Harvard engages in research that benefits humanity. But if a 2014 Crimson poll is to be believed, roughly 31 percent of that year’s graduating class pursued jobs in “consulting” and finance—the industry responsible for the economic collapse of 2008 and for much of the economic inequality that poisons us today. What does it mean that so many Harvard students value the individual wealth of so very few at the expense of so very many? Is this educational success?
Young people see what’s happening. They sense accutely when they are manipulated, lied to, and betrayed. Resistance is brewing on this campus and across the country. Movements like the ones we were involved in are an important corrective to the individualistic solutions proffered by this society and its representative institutions. At the very least, they teach the need for solidarity and cooperation, and for skepticism about official explanations. At best, at moments of greatest repression, as during the 1960s, they lift the veil from the well-manicured façades and allow us to confront the rot underneath.
What happened in 1969 was no isolated incident. It was a manifestation of social crisis. We tried to contribute something useful, and many of us paid a painful price for so doing. But at least we learned something. Harvard is an educational institution—but it is also a corporation and thinks like one. Which mandate will it choose to follow. Will it act more wisely in 2019 (and beyond) than it did in 1969? The jury is still out.
Non-Harvard member of Harvard-Radcliffe SDS
Participant in University Hall occupation
Kudos for your revisiting April 1969, and especially for including informative recallings by Mike Kazin, Dick Hyland, Chris Wallace, and others.
Let me call your attention, however, to at least two other relevant contributions by members of my class of 1971: myself and Katha Pollitt.
In my June 1997 article for the magazine Aufbau—an abbreviated version of which was printed, and appears online with the full version, I mentioned Katha’s May 12, 1997, Nation article, while critiquing Roger Rosenblatt’s book on the subject, Coming Apart. The following excerpt from my article is particularly relevant, as I see now that I was actually mentioned—though not by name—in Thomas A. Stewart’s article in the Harvard Alumni Bulletin of April 28, 1969, page 48, where he refers to me as “another reporter” who “brought the news that the cops were moving in.” Here’s the excerpt from my article:
I had seen the police massing at the Cambridge fire house outside the Yard and had rushed to the radio station, WHRB, of which I was a member, demanding to be put on the air, which I was, despite having been banned since January for having reinterpreted a UPI bulletin about the universities in Spain having been closed due to student riots. (I said they had been closed due to the fascist government, which was of course true, but for that was temporarily banned from the air.) At 3:23 a.m. April 10, 1969, I told what I had just seen, and that the police’s imminent arrival could be expected. I then climbed my way back over the fence into the sealed Yard. The news spread and fire alarms were set off to wake everybody up. Those who watched the ensuing brutality, lit by floodlights and an eerie sunrise, began chanting, “The whole world is watching! The whole world is watching!”
But the only thing that stopped any of the cops cold from chasing students into neighboring Weld Hall was my shouting: “Don’t go in there! The radio’s in there!” WHRB had set up a remote and was broadcasting live, in segments which later became an LP entitled “Confrontation at Harvard.”
I see now, from Chris Wallace’s account, that the police eventually did raid Weld, though at least not with billyclubs hacking away, as occurred outside that building.
I eagerly await Dick Hyland’s book on the subject, and hope he’ll honor me with my being able to read and perhaps comment on it before it goes to press. In a Dunster House concert in 1970 I inserted his name in a song from The Cradle Will Rock on “The Freedom of the Press,” sung by Mister Mister:
“I should like a series on young Richard Hyland,
who trespassed on my land...”
One more thing I think worth mentioning: April 9, 1969, marked a turning point in the career of Martin Peretz, a professor whose class on “Power” I had taken and whose politics and rhetoric I had much admired up until that day, especially his bitter eulogy after the death of Dr. King a year earlier, and his one-on-one meeting with me, in which he advised me to read Mann’s Doktor Faustus. On that day, however, in the Yard, when I broached him with the question of whether the occupiers of University Hall might be considered, to some extent, a “vanguard,” in revolutionary terms, he turned on me and denounced them all categorically as “thugs.” His unfortunate radical turn to the right can, I think, be dated from that moment.
Leonard J. Lehrman ’71, D.M.A.
Valley Stream, N.Y.
Having been a freshman in April 1969 in Weld Hall, next to University Hall, I found the accounts of the occupation fascinating. However the fact that a display about these events is being presented in Pusey Library is obscene.
Pusey, of course, was the university president who called in the police to arrest and remove—that is drag and beat—his students from University Hall. Pusey—in loco parentis.
A roommate and I went through University Hall as tourists during the one-day occupation. We saw no damage to anything, just a bunch of kids sitting around.
Some of the occupying students came by our first floor Weld dorm room that evening, to talk and look for food. We didn’t have any food unfortunately.
We were glad to talk. I remembered a dignified Radcliffe lady, I think a junior. I was impressed by her clothing. (I’m a guy, visual things about women, that’s just how we are.)
When the bust occurred, all the freshmen set off the fire alarms in their dorms. I was a sound sleeper then. In one of my most impressive performances, or non-performances, I slept through everything.
In the morning, all my classmates could not believe I had missed the bust. They told me how they had all run out of their dorms, seen the police dragging the kids out of University Hall, and then had some of the police take the opportunity to come after them with clubs as well.
After hearing all this, I looked around Harvard Yard. I saw the deep tire tracks of the school buses that took off my schoolmate arrestees. I noticed a fine suede high-heeled shoe pushed into the mud. It had been on the Radcliffe lady the evening before.
All the kids in the Yard knew that if the police came it would be violent against the students. Either Pusey, the president of Harvard University, didn’t know what every 18- and 19-year-old in the Yard knew, or he did. Either way he was a disgrace.
It’s bad enough that his name is on a library in the Yard. To have a display about the police raid, abuse, and violence he authorized, in the library with his name on it, is an obscenity.
David Raphael Levinson ’72
It is unfortunate that we did not have reflections from a few of the many students who were then attending Harvard on ROTC scholarships.
At my recent fiftieth reunion, the hand-wringing and angst of the ’60s was still apparent in a number of open class meetings. In addition, many of the anguished self-identified with their “Resist Trump” armbands.
In the face of a very active draft and the impending end to our student deferments, many of my classmates made unusual postgraduate choices. Our reunion Red Books contain many instances of regret. I enlisted and spent three years in the United States Army, including a year as an infantry officer in Vietnam.
My mantra since, when asked, is that “I am as proud of my military service as I am of my Harvard College degree.”
Tom Reardon ’68
This is my eyewitness account of what happened that day. You should bother to read it…because people are dying off. It’s what they do, you see.
The day/night that University Hall was taken over by students, a packed-house meeting was held in Lowell Lecture Hall, at the bottom end of Oxford Street and across from what is now the Science Center. The debate raged, at first about a possible building takeover. Then it morphed into a protracted argument about student rights, Academic Freedom, and then Afro-American studies, clearly an adjunct to the ever popular and sacred…Academic Freedom argument.
As the crowd breathed deeply, collectively wondering if it actually had the cojones to act as many there said it should, my proctor from Hollis North entryway in the Yard proper (just where the College Pump still stands) rose to the podium. Gregory Kendrich Pilkington [’67, J.D. ’72], an Englishman, spoke briefly and then proceeded to quote from an article in The Wall Street Journal. He said…and I paraphrase, “…When the debate about the war gets too frantic on the campus, we advise college administrators across America to shift the discussion to one having to do with (wait for it) Students’ Rights and ‘Academic Freedom.’”
This single remark…brought the house down! Peremptory fevered discussion ensued, but the sentiment of the crowd had been congealed…in stone. University Hall was going to be taken over, and today, was when. Tactics were briefed. The crowd crashed the Yard, then crashed windows on the Memorial Church northeast corner of the administration building. Doors were forced, and we (uh, they) proceeded to enter.
I remember a lot of walking around, stumbling through offices, wondering what to do. A very few occupants, I think, were hustled out into the fresh air. As files were being rifled, it dawned on me that…this was Not a Good Look for a student on a Full Four Year Scholarship. So…I got the hell out.
The next morning I awoke at dawn. There was a distinctly bluish haze, a fog, out in the Yard. It was the police. I hurriedly dressed, went out, and as the police stormed into the building at its southwest steps, I feared a panicky mob would try to rush out onto the grass. But there were the wires. In spring, two-inch by two-inch green painted posts were used to string medium gauge wire all along the pathways to protect newly planted grass. I began frantically uprooting posts and knocking down the wires, thinking that escaping occupiers would be caught up in the wires as police pursued them.
But the police action was swift and sure. I desisted lest I be thought to be vandalizing the Yard. I watched as classmates, some recognizable to me, were trundled off in yellow school buses as they pounded on the windows and shouted insults. I was really glad I had not jeopardized my scholarship by being caught up in what seemed at the time to be both a meaningful and a senseless act. There was much to follow. But at least I had saved my own scholarship. No legal team produced by my parents was going to get my tail reinstated to student-dom. I would have been on the way to Vietnam. You could bet that.
And thanks to Craig Lambert for doing this at all.
Thomas Zubaty ’72
Marstons Mills, Mass.
Thanks for a great article. As I recall, I was at the Law School and there were a lot of activists in our class of ’71 who were already activists in college. We had cop confrontations, too, to keep them off the Law School campus—a cop chased a law student into a small on-campus office and beat him—it was the office of the Harvard Law Review and a picture of the travesty was on the cover of the next edition of Review!
Kim Guggenheim, J.D. ’71
Having been a full-time student who lived on the Harvard campus during the 1968-1969 school year, I answer Robert Hall’s question of the origin of the idea that black radicals had threatened Widener Library [page 58].
Being a 30-year old, taking a year leave from UC, Berkeley graduate work, fresh from original UC protests, I could recount how UC students incorporated wit and theater in the 1968 protests.
When authorities attempted to starve out protesters occupying the tall administration building, the UC Mountaineering Club rigged a “Tyrolean Traverse” to pull supplies from a nearby building.
In a planning session, a student (also in the military reserve) suggested “we cut off their supply of paper” so the teaching assistants’ labor union set a picket line .Teamster-driven trucks did not cross.
When a law-enforcement helicopter sprayed tear gas on gatherings after authorities had imposed curfews, students brought in conical straw hats to pantomime attacks on Vietnamese villagers.
Thus, when I arrived in Cambridge from Berkeley, I believed that 19-year-olds could find fun even in the midst of Sturm und Drang.
My graduate school on Appian Way offered a genteel afternoon tea, in a fine reception room where nice ladies served it in porcelain cups, and students visited with friends in upholstered lounge chairs to exchange day’s events. One day, a witty young “lady of color,” as we then put it, lamented that black student leaders, that very day, had presented demands across a big table to administrators who then asked those same student leaders to wait outside in the hall to allow administrators to plan a reply. A retort had been “Yassuh, we’ll be shuffling roun’ ’til you call.”
To my fellow student, the problem was that administrators did not take black students seriously. With a twinkle, she said; “We’ve been thinking about burning a watermelon on their lawn, but worry that they might not get the joke.” Laughingly she asked me, the white guy, what preposterous threat might get through to those white administrators’ attentions. I flashed on administrators’ self-importance, and I also shared their reverential feeling in looking up at the Gutenberg Bible displayed in the Widener entry hall. “You might offer to trash their Gutenberg Bible,” I bantered. Days later she smiled—it had gotten attention.
I wince when historians cite that spur-of-the-moment prank as evidence of grave black intent. I apologize to Professor Oscar Handlin, who educated and treated we students well.
And I suggest that Harvard people lighten up.
William Rutledge, Ed.M ’69, Ph.D. (Berkeley) ’75
San Rafael, Calif.
Mark Helprin mentioned the collateral damage to Harvard. As a member of the class of ’73, there was additional collateral damage that I experienced as a result of the anarchy perpetrated by some on Harvard’s campus. One of my proudest moments at Harvard was joining a group of students, many from the Yard, to block the destructive intentions of another group of students and others who were going to burn the ROTC building. The confrontation ended without violence but would have ended in violence and destruction, as it did in Harvard Square, had not a counter group of students taken action.
I felt the anarchy again in the spring of ’70 when, against my will and the wishes of my blue collar parents who were paying for my education, the school year was ended early. Having later read Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism in Professor Richard Hunt’s excellent class on Nazi Germany and in reflecting on this part of my Harvard experience, I concluded that anyone can justify violence for their cause or beliefs. It is up to all of us to act as a counter force to promote free speech, the exchange of ideas, tolerance, nonviolence, and the pursuit of Veritas.
Karl V. Kovacs ’73
Traverse City, Mich.
Perhaps administrators might talk to students…
In “1969: Memories and Meanings from a Time of Turmoil,” Frank Rich and Jean Bennett, among others, reflect on the shocking situation, for all of us, of what I would name—as a professor of international relations and international law—U.S. aggression against Vietnam and the iron ties of universities to American militarism—part of President Eisenhower’s Military-Industrial-Congressional and (Ike himself suggested in the text) Academic Complex. This was challenged by a diverse, nationwide student movement, extending into the women’s movement, the Southern student movement, including black colleges, gay, lesbian, and transgender protest, and accompanied by wider resistance, particularly among African Americans, and including everyone caught up in the war. Many new forces like those now energizing Congress—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Presley, and Ilhan Omar—came then, not so easily, into political life.
To Frank Rich and others, it seemed “civilization” collapsed. But many of us, including some wonderful professors, our fellow students, and those who worked on campus, did not see the stolid Harvard adminstration and Trustees as leaders of an entirely “civilized” community.
The editors introduce the articles: “In the late 1960s, American society seemed in crisis. The Tet Offensive that began in January 1968 underscored the scale, violence, and increasingly apparent fecklessness of the war in Vietnam.” Even Frank Rich speaks of the war as a “quagmire.”
In Vietnam, the U.S. government paid 80 percent of the French empire’s military bill, blocked an election in 1956 which, as President Eisenhower said, would have reunified Vietnam democratically under Ho Chi Minh, established the Diem government representing the 10 percent of the population who were Catholic in “South” Vietnam, and outlawing even the celebration of Buddha’s birthday (monks like Thich Quang Duc sat in meditation position and set themselves afire), and murdered some 2 million people. These were, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” “strange liberators.”
Here is the editors’ third sentence: “The combat itself had opened ugly class divisions between those drafted into military service and the large cohort of Baby Boom students enrolled in college and, at least temporarily, exempt.”
In 1966-67, I canvassed for the anti-war referendum in Cambridge that, after court battles, got some 40 percent of the vote. If you raised questions with ordinary people about who was going to fight and die in this far-away war, whether they wanted their loved ones or relatives to do so, and who paid the costs of the inflation, many voted for the referendum.
Contra the editors, Jean Bennett joined the strike because of her relationship with her neighbors in Cambridge: “My working-class neighbors felt Harvard’s squeeze, so President Pusey’s denial of the expansion issue transformed me from inactive moderate to accidental radical.”
It is true that cops often hated the wealth and arrogance of Harvard and were frightening on the morning of April 10. But those who join the police often isolate themselves even from their relatives.
As a member of a student panel at Sanders Theatre in May 1965, I asked McGeorge Bundy, National Security Advisor to President Johnson and former dean of Arts and Sciences, how the U.S. expected to defeat a successful peasant revolution by trying to restore the landlords. The 800 people in attendance cheered. Bundy responded that he had intelligence that we did not. He didn’t…
Many of us were horrified by photographs from Vietnam of a little girl on fire from napalm running naked down a dirt road. I was the tardy five-hundredth person at a nonviolent Dow sit-in in 1967, and was suspended for it. In the Crimson, President Pusey proclaimed that those of us who protested “wanted to tear Harvard down stone by stone and dance on the rubble.”
Sam Freedman, a chemistry student, later sent me “Napalm Halloween,” a poem he wrote about being a sophomore in Louis Fieser’s class in 1961:
We gazed enrapt at the annual Halloween presentation
as an esteemed chemist splashed plywood mock-up huts
with the napalm he had invented.
No one felt guilt,
“Strange liberators,” Dr. King wrote.
At Yale, Reverend William Sloane Coffin and President Kingman Brewster spoke to some of the anti-war concerns of students. No strike occurred.
Through Social Studies and the Student-Faculty Advisory Committee, Stanley Hoffmann tried to reach out to students and had a far better vision of Harvard (we became friends despite the tension that he served on the Committee on Rights and Responsibilities). My memorial to Stanley appears here.
Lucy Fisher, fleeing the police and on strike against the war, speaks of never wanting to set foot again in University Hall and wondering about it even today, as a pathbreaking movie producer and former Overseer: “It certainly felt like we had changed things. But looking around today not enough.”
Conversation, then and today, about the possibility of human extinction is an important value in University life…
The editors speak wincingly of changes in University policy arising from the strike: “the reduction of ROTC to extracurricular status and a student role in Afro-American studies appointments—a vote that future dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Henry Rosovsky, an original champion of the program, denounced and later characterized as an ‘academic Munich.’”
Yes, one black student on an advisory committee would scare the living daylights out of a Harvard dean. The surrender to racism, arrogant privilege, and panic, however, was Rosovsky’s. Henry was my teacher but it would be merciful to him to forget that he said this.
Worse yet, as President Drew Faust recently recognized, Harvard was built on racism (slavery and murder of indigenous people—see Craig Steven Wilder, Ebony & Ivy, 2015). It is not black students and others in the civil rights movement, who were the problem. Rather, it was a Harvard administration who deafly defended faculty like Richard Herrnstein—“unemployment may run in the genes of a family like bad teeth” (Atlantic, 1970) or Edward Banfield, advisor to President Nixon—“riots are outbreaks of animal spirits and looting on the part of youth” (The Unheavenly City) or Louis Fieser, and refused to hear—or expelled—students who challenged them. There can be no decent or democratic education so long as divisions among us are perpetuated by those in power and the word “community” to refer to such practices is a joke.
Until 2015, when Robert Vitalis published White World Order, Black Power Politics, most people in international relations did not realize that the discipine as well as leading American politicians were eugenicists, intent on keeping non-white people down, from the American South across the globe, until after World War II. The influential journal Foreign Affairs had been previously, Vitalis was shocked to discover, The Journal of Race Development. America had many federal and state laws against racial intermarriage (“miscegenation”), for forced sterilization of putatively feeble-minded immigrants, blacks, and Native Americans, as well as to bar Italian and Jewish immigrants. In addition, as Aldon Morris showed in The Scholar Denied (2016), American sociology has whited out its founder and greatest writer, W.E.B. Du Bois, in favor of the miserable eugenicist Robert Parks at the University of Chicago.
Harvard has made large strides in recruiting a more diverse student body. The grotesque symbol of slavery “House Master” or “Mistress” is now gone. But about the history even of the strike, there is a long way to go.
Black students apparently did not experience the strike in the same way. Among those who tried to mock the racism (one cannot shoot low enough to satirize the bigotry of some professors and the media at the time), Robert Hall is rightly amused by the fears of Oscar Handlin. Personally, I consider the demonstration of black students at Widener—one by one pressing their faces against the glass door and saying a sarcastic/ghostly “Boo”—as one of the great dissident acts in Harvard history (if you want to understand Harvard, ask black people or indigenous people or others who have been excluded):
In this crisis atmosphere, a rumor apparently circulated that black students were going to storm Widener Library, destroy books, and, to the great horror of some faculty, empty the card catalog. Where this rumor came from is a mystery to me; certainly I had never heard a black student suggest this at any of our numerous strategy meetings (frequently held in Phillips Brooks House, whose president was one of my black classmates, Wes Profit).
One evening, during a break in a meeting, a reporter asked several of us if this rumor was true, and intimated that a group of faculty had barricaded themselves inside Widener to stave off the barbarian hordes. About a hundred of us decided to have some fun, and marched up the steps to the front door of Widener, one by one pressed our black and brown faces against the glass door, said “Boo,” and walked to a common room in another part of the Yard to continue our meeting. In retrospect, this may not have been the wisest tactic, as our playful action probably convinced the vigilance committee that we indeed intended to desecrate the library.
In 1992 I had an awkward encounter with Oscar Handlin, then emeritus professor of history at Harvard, during a gala dinner at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences celebrating the centennial of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, of which I am a life member. By the time I had worked the room, only two seats remained, and my wife and I had no choice but to sit at the same table with Professor Handlin and his wife, Lillian. Not thinking that he would remember me, I introduced myself. Raising his voice somewhat, he said, ‘I know who you are!’ Then I said, ‘And you probably think that back in 1969 the black students were going to invade Widener.’ Handlin poked me in the chest with his stubby fingers and said in a still louder voice, ‘You were! You were!’”
Today Handlin’s chilling misconduct is easily recognized as a microaggression. There is nothing amusing about racist fantasies and the horrors they enable.
Alan Gilbert ’65, Ph.D. ’74
Author of Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War of Independence
To bring the dilemma of opioid addiction “home” (“The Opioids Emergency,” March-April, page 36), I attribute my husband’s suicide in 2018 in considerable part to this relatively new fear of prescribing opioids.
In the early 2000s Tom suffered, not unlike Kate Nicholson in your article (“The Persistence of Pain,” page 41), from severe back pain for several years. He worked while lying on his back (he was a transportation consultant) and didn’t drive. He was prescribed high doses of opioids and other strong meds to manage the pain. With help from a physical therapist and others, he began to get better. He gradually weaned himself from the opioids (he never got a high, but did experience physical dependence). A former rock climber, he became an avid and expert cyclist, and we traveled widely for many years.
In late 2017, Tom once again began to experience severe hip and back pain. He saw a primary caregiver who first prescribed 30 pills of “low dose” hydrocodone and subsequently gave Tom 15 more pills, saying that was ALL, as he, the caregiver, had worked in an ER and knew about addiction. Tom then went to a pain management specialist who humiliated him, saying, cynically, “I’ll give you three pills to help you through the MRI because at least there will be someone there if you collapse.” At home over the next several weeks Tom became depressed and anxious, with very little access to the medications which had essentially saved him before. He died last March.
I hope, as we work to quell this public health crisis, that physicians are trained to treat the individual patients who can successfully benefit from opioid medications or newly developed alternatives.
Nancy Dyar, M.A.T ’67, Ph.D
I was very disappointed by the article. Certainly since 2000 the over-availability of prescription opioids made them attractive to addicts seeking a heroin-like high. There have always been questions, however, about the overlap between those addicts and chronic pain patients. Typical is a study in the American Journal of Psychiatry which found that 78 percent of OxyContin addicts had not obtained their drugs via prescription. Longitudinal studies have also repeatedly shown surprisingly low risks for opioid addiction among chronic pain sufferers. And a recent study in JAMA Open Network showed that further restricting opioid prescriptions will not substantially affect the death rate in Massachusetts —unsurprisingly, since 90 percent of overdoses are now fentanyl-related.
What is indisputable is that even current restrictions on legally prescribed opioids are harming genuinely ill patients for whom these drugs remain the best solution and last resort. Studies have shown both sickle-cell patients and diabetics with neuropathic pain being undertreated and criminalized due to the opioid panic. A survey of more than 3,000 pain patients found that 70 percent reported increased pain and a lowered quality of life as a result of having their prescriptions cut off or restricted. A recent op-ed in JAMA noted that the opioid “alternatives” have little effect on many pain disorders, but dangerous side-effects; cited the research showing that the majority of pain patients do not misuse opioids; and called for an end to the media’s irresponsible use of the term “opioid epidemic.”
Unfortunately, legitimate concern over fentanyl-driven overdoses is creating a parallel crisis, that of genuinely ill patients who are being undertreated and criminalized through no fault of their own. It seems to me that theirs is a story worth reporting.
Tara Kelly ’91
Many people take opioids because they want the high. By all accounts, the high is an intense pleasure. “The Opioids Emergency” says nothing about this. Not one word. Surely the doctors interviewed for the article know that lots of people want the high. The doctors evidently regard that as inconsequential. With such a narrow focus, they are not likely to solve the problem.
Jack Harllee ’63
The vintage photograph of a typical dorm room in the Gropius Graduate School complex (“What A Human Should Be,” on the Bauhaus and Harvard, March-April, page 44; see below) reminds me vividly of my two years in just such a room in 1967-69: Richards Hall 301. A little-known fact I discovered at that time is that the rooms were the same size, 10 feet by 15 feet, as the cell at St. Denis of Abbot Suger—the “inventor” of the French Gothic style; and, closer to home, also the same size as the interior of Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond, where his philosophical ruminations were born. There must be some connection here....
Daniel D. Reiff ’63, Ph.D. ’70
The “Vita” on Sam Stouffer (March-April, page 50) brought back welcome graduate-school memories. Sam’s work on The American Soldier, important as it was, represented only a fragment of his contribution both to demography and survey research. Absent from the article was a reference to his landmark McCarthy-era statement, Communism, Conformity, and Civil Liberties, published in 1955.
In his later years he was one of the early pioneers in research on the connection between educational achievement and social status that became one of the chief concerns in the sociology of education over the next half-century. His work also contributed to social action. He developed the point system for establishing priorities governing the order in which soldiers returned to the States following World War II—not to mention coining the phrase “Move Up To Schlitz,” based on his studies of social status, as it pertained to beer drinking.
Funniest memory: I sat next to Sam at a lecture that B.F. Skinner gave on teaching machines (one of the sillier educational hobby horses at the time). Sam sat there shaking his head: “Burrhus [what the B stands for] has the highest I.Q. of anyone I’ve ever met. Too bad he can’t use his head.”
I suspect you could fill a whole magazine with Sam Stouffer stories.
Robert Dreeben, Ph.D. ’62
As a graduate student in Harvard’s social relations department in the 1950s, one of my most valuable experiences was course work and other contacts with Samuel Stouffer. At that point he had just completed his classic book on Communism, Conformity, and Civil Liberties. By his skillful use of questions in a large national survey, he showed that Americans were neither as preoccupied by an internal communist menace, nor by an anti-communist attack on civil liberties, as appeared at the time in much popular writing. The questions he developed then came to be used in continuing research on attitudes toward civil liberties.
Stouffer was a genius in employing sample surveys to study the national population. During the brief life of Harvard’s attempt after World War II to combine sociology, anthropology, and social and clinical psychology in a single department of social relations, he demonstrated the importance of survey research as a scientific method of inquiry. Stouffer himself was disarmingly simple as a social scientist, yet profound in his grasp of how to employ the sample survey as a scientific method of inquiry.
Howard Schuman, Ph.D. ’61
The article on Samuel Stouffer’s findings of social-science phenomena came just as I had begun wondering if a sense of relative deprivation, which Stouffer identified, would affect 2020 election results. Specifically, would the historically low levels of black and Hispanic unemployment lead to support for an administration whose lower tax and anti-regulatory policies are, arguably, responsible for minority success in the current labor market?
I concluded that labor market success would not lead to major shifts toward support for the current administration. My reasoning was that new-found success in the labor market would be compared to the success of some reference group that appeared to be doing better. That is, perceived deprivation relative to others would lead to a sense of dissatisfaction—rather than appreciation—for current economic conditions.
But wait! From a friend orphaned at age five, when his test-pilot father died in a plane crash, I learned of the common belief that American pilots based in post-World War II Germany experienced a 50 percent mortality rate during their military service.
So, could the air force personnel dissatisfaction observed by Samuel Stouffer and reported in The American Soldier have resulted from high-risk work rather than from a sense that others were being promoted faster than they? And from the perception that promotions were facilitated by a comrade’s death?
So I am no longer sure about the “relative deprivation” hypothesis, or its predictive power for the 2020 elections.
Virginia Deane Abernethy, Ph.D. ’70 (social relations department)
Professor emerita, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
For soldiers in World War II, Stouffer’s greatest contribution was the Point System that determined the order in which they were discharged following the Japanese surrender. Those with longer service, those who had been in actual combat, or wounded, were discharged first. The system was devised by the research division that Stouffer headed and was based uppon attitude surveys conducted before the end of the war. It was greeted with universal approval by the troops.
The research derived from the idea of relative deprivation, meaning that individuals judge the justice of a system based upon comparison with other individuals: thus those of us in combat zones who did not face actual combat did not begrudge those who did getting out earlier.
Historically, the Point System was important because it allowed for a gradual release of soldiers into the labor market, where along with the benefits of the GI Bill and delayed demand for consumer goods, the economy had a chance to recover, thus obviating unemployment and the unrest that had followed the end of World War I. That was an outcome that government leaders feared.
Stephen T. Boggs ’45
My memories of Samuel Stouffer are still vivid. He would have been my dissertation adviser if he hadn’t died in the summer of 1960. I was fortunate to have Tom Pettigrew as his replacement, but the research method I used, a “quick and dirty” way to study local leaders facing major community issues, was designed by Stouffer. For that I will be forever grateful.
I will mention two other ways that I benefited from Stouffer as mentor. In his course in my first graduate semester, he had Pettigrew and Ernest Campbell report on their on-going study of Little Rock ministers during the desegregation crisis. Eager to get involved in actual research in my chosen area of race relations, I volunteered to help code their data. Not only did this establish a close relationship with Pettigrew, but it also led to my being offered a faculty position at the University of North Carolina, where Campbell had gone after his postdoc stint at Harvard. I’m still at UNC, retired, some 62 years later.
I also learned a clever teaching ploy from Stouffer that I used many times in my career. He would put a simple contingency table on the board, maybe comparing men and women on their attitudes about the upcoming 1960 presidential election. The data would show a clear difference between the two groups, and he would ask the class for possible explanations. After several were offered, with class members feeling satisfied by their erudition, Stouffer would look at the table and apologize for having mislabeled it. Indeed, he would report, the male-female difference was the opposite from what he had originally shown. “Now, who would like to suggest some reasons for the difference?” Lessons learned: be careful that your data are accurate, and be very cautious with ex-post-facto explanations when you haven’t brought some underlying theoretical premise for predicting a specific outcome.
The “Vita” discusses Stouffer’s place in the large world of social science; I want to report his significance for a single person lucky enough to have come along near the end of his life.
M. Richard Cramer, Ph.D. ’62
Chapel Hill, N.C.
The Economy Unfettered
“The New Monopoly” and the quoted explanations of professor Jason Furman (March-April, page 11) are a monument to political correctness, but an affront to sound reasoning. Let us count the ways:
The premise that American workers are being victimized by a monopsony is belied by the historically low rates of unemployment, below 4 percent at this writing. It also fails to take into account what is happening to workers’ standard of living and wealth, as opposed to their share of an income distribution, which I suggest has substantially improved in recent years more often than not. Indeed, even granting the assertion that market concentration has increased in three-quarters of American industries since 2000 hardly establishes the existence of a monopsony or even of a material increase.
The article also fails to take into account the situation described later in this issue, namely “The Opioids Emergency.” Persons afflicted with this addiction—which clearly calls for a strong response on many fronts—are not the ones being impacted by changing market structure.
On a more technical level, the references to noncompete agreements as contributing to the purported imbalance of market power ignore several fundamental considerations. As a business lawyer, frequently advising clients on such agreements, I feel compelled to respond. First, even if nearly a quarter of the population is covered by such agreements, many—perhaps a majority—apply to senior management (sometimes in connection with the sale of a business), who, by the author’s hypothesis, are the ones falling behind, while others probably are only non-solicitation agreements applicable to customers and employees, but not keeping people from working in their field.
Second, all such agreements have finite duration, usually no more than a year and often only three to six months. They are simply not a permanent impediment to economic advancement.
Finally, many persons covered by such agreements are implicitly or explicitly paid for their forbearance from competition. Furman is correct that there are too many cases involving hourly employees where such agreements serve no useful purpose and should be prohibited, but to attribute large-scale macroeconomic implications to them is a gross overstatement.
Before we pursue drastic structural changes in our economy, we need to ensure that there is actually a sound rationale for doing so.
Martin B. Robins, J.D. ’80
Barrington Hills, Ill.
Henry Street Settlement
I am a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and a Unitarian Universalist minister, now retired. I loved the article featuring the work of David Garza ’86 (“The Good Fight,” March-April, page 71). I am a faithful reader, and Garza’s story represents a world I know far better than the one most frequently highlighted in this magazine, which, from my perspective, skews to the accomplishments of rich white alums (mostly male).
While I appreciate the remarkable endeavors and accomplishments of so many alums, it is rare to read about the remarkable endeavors and accomplishments of someone like Garza whose mission—to open doors of opportunity, to enrich lives, and enhance human progress—can be seen and experienced at the Henry Street Settlement in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. More like this, please! And thanks to David Garza.
Rev. Katie Lee Crane, M.Div. ’97
West Roxbury, Mass.
Legacy Admissions, and A Related Matter
In response to a class fundraising solicitation, I must advise you that for some time now I have ceased making any gifts to Harvard College…and will continue in that course of action as long as Harvard continues to provide an admissions preference to legacy applicants or applicants whose parents have contributed substantial amounts to Harvard.
The reason for my action is not complex. I believe that the current Harvard admissions preferences serve primarily to reinforce the gap between the most and least well-to-do members of our society, to the detriment of the nation as a whole.
Harvard profits handsomely from the beneficiaries of its preferential admissions policies, and will not notice or much care about losing my comparatively tiny contributions. My views of sound social policy, however, are better served by transferring my contributions to organizations that are seeking to reduce the income/influence gap in our society, rather than perpetuating it as do the Harvard preferential admissions policies.
Stephen B. Goldberg ’54, LL.B. ’59
After reading the March 23 article in The Wall Street Journal titled “The Right Way to Choose A College,” I was shocked to learn that “more than 80 percent of students at high-achieving schools cheat in one way or another.”
My daughter will be applying to college in the fall and I’ve been urging her to consider Harvard, one of the schools in this pool. When I read this statistic, my immediate reaction was, “I don’t want her to go to school with kids like that!” Integrity is one of our top family values. It didn’t take long for it to sink in that my alma mater’s reputation was being sullied by cheaters as well. I am very proud of being a Harvard alumna. I worked very hard to get in and to graduate once there. Are other alumnae as outraged as I am about what’s happened to our institution? What is Harvard doing about this? I don’t mean just appeasing the “varsity blues” scandal; I mean changing the bulk of the student body?
Joanie Connell ’87
La Jolla, Calif.
I am sorry to have offended the two lawyers, Robert Kantowitz and Mervyn Hecht, by using the word “apartheid” (Letters, January-February, page 75) to describe Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians. I used the word advisedly: I heard South African president Cyril Ramaphosa muse that he was struggling about whether to break diplomatic relations with Israel because “their practice of apartheid is even worse than we had in South Africa.”
The Israel-Palestine conflict will have no resolution as long as it depends on claims of “he hit me first.” True statesmanship will understand that peace needs to be accompanied by justice and reconciliation. Palestinians displaying such statesmanship include Saeb Erekat and Hanan Ashrawi: who are the statesmen in Israel?
John Fitzhugh Millar ’66
The March-April issue contains a letter (pages 82-3) from Mr. Robert Kantowicz accusing Mr. John Millar of publishing lies and anti-Semitism in a letter on Israeli apartheid, and a second by Mr. Mervyn Hecht charging Mr. Millar with being deficient in history.
Perhaps both of these gentlemen are too young to remember relevant historical connections. Decades ago, Israeli liberals organized an anti-apartheid week, complete with demonstrations and speeches denouncing the institutional racism in South Africa. At the end of the week, a plane from that country landed with government and military representatives, who met their Israeli counterparts to work out economic and military agreements including their joint nuclear-weapons program. The agreements often referred to the “historic friendship” between the countries. Israelis at that time openly advertised their services in South African newspapers to launder goods to evade the boycott directed at that country. During the Palestinian uprisings (intifadas) against the Israeli occupation, Israel brought in South African military advisors to help them suppress the unruly natives.
In an ironic twist, in recent times South African civil-rights workers have advised Palestinians on nonviolent resistance to Israeli policies, including the BDS movement.
My parents lived in East Jerusalem for the academic year 1966. Under an enlightened laissez-faire Jordanian rule, the area had prospered. Whereas a decade earlier I walked to school down the middle of the street with an eye out for beggars, my father described a horn-honking traffic jam each morning as Palestinians commuted to work. Wages had increased from 25 cents a day to a conventional hourly wage, and begging had been eliminated. This prosperity ended abruptly with the 1967 Israeli invasion. Around 2000, a second-generation Palestinian I know moved to Jerusalem, intending to stay a year and connect with his roots. He left after a month or so with the comment that the Palestinian community there was no longer viable. This is clearly a result of Israeli policies, whether or not they constitute apartheid, and not some inherent deficiency in Palestinian talents or abilities.
G. David Mendenhall, Ph.D. ’71
One-quarter of American women will abort a pregnancy in our lifetimes. All of us have recently been called murderers in these pages (Wishnatsky, November-December, page 4; Borini, online March-April). One writer claimed that my letter (January-February, page 75) supporting abortion was “defensive.” That may be. It’s hard not to be defensive when our reproductive rights are under serious and sustained attack.
None of my beloved family would have existed if I had not prevented my first pregnancy from developing into a human life, a person who could survive on their own. At the time I arranged to abort my three-month fetus, it was entirely dependent on my body, and would have remained so for the next six months.
I was not ready to be a mother. The idea of taking complete responsibility for a helpless new being, when I was just learning to be responsible for myself, filled me with horror and panic. Like 95 percent of women who get abortions, I have no regrets about mine.
I prevented a fetus from becoming an individual separate from myself. When we eat apples, we don’t think of ourselves as killing apple trees. When women get abortions, we are not murdering people. We are preventing the usurpation of our own lives, our autonomy, by a life that is not yet Other, but will become so if we allow it.
Pregnancy is difficult and dangerous. Raising a child is a tremendous burden. Men, especially, need to stop shaming and start helping. Making abortions harder to get, shutting clinics that provide basic healthcare for millions of poor women, and harassing women when they try to access that care, are tactics of a repressive movement that seeks to reverse the freedoms women have fought hard and long to win.
Jane Collins ’71
Harvard and the Wider World
Although I fully agree with President Lawrence Bacow that Harvard stands for excellence [The View from Mass Hall, March-April, page 3], the regrettable fact is that Harvard’s excellence, as well as that of the other fine institutions of higher learning in the U.S., is not being transferred to the public arena where it is badly needed. Thus, last week on February 25, I read in the San Diego Union Tribune a column by Noah Smith taken from Bloomberg Opinion in which he likened the U.S. to “a developing nation,” and one that instead of being on the way up, seems rather to be on the way down.
In this regard, he calls attention to the many problems we face, some of which are: corruption, inefficient bidding, high land-acquisition costs, poor maintenance, an incredibly large prison population, and, of particular significance for Harvard and other universities with medical schools, the problems with health care. With regard to this, he describes its high cost compared to other countries with a government-dominated system, and he observes that “for all the lavish spending, the U.S. tends to get worse outcomes on many measures.” Thus he notes: “five years ago life expectancy, which is still rising in most other countries, began to fall in the U.S. Most countries have also seen declines in maternal mortality, But in the U.S., the rate has risen in recent years.” Clearly the public is not benefiting from that excellence of which President Bacow writes, and hence this is a major problem which our institutions of higher learning should address. In this regard, it is helpful to recall that just as John Donne wrote, “No man is an island,” so too, no university is an island, “entire to itself.”
Frank R. Tangherlini ’48
Please tell me that I am not the only reader who saw “continent” spelled “contient” not once but four times in the “DECISION TREE HELP!” chart on page 6 of the March-April issue.
Feel free not to tell me that I was the only reader who took the time to write to you about it!
An editor forever,
Dan Kelly ’75
Editor’s note: The misspelling appeared in the original chart, and we were not able to correct it.
Reading obituaries would seem to be an unusual way to uplift one’s spirits, but reading them in Harvard Magazine does that for me regularly. The world can be such a dour and depressing place these days, with examples everywhere of decent values being compromised and diminished. But it’s uplifting to read many or most of the obituaries in the magazine.
So many of the men’s and women’s lives summarized there are heartening examples of good and productive and honest lives led by fine people who have placed service above self, and who typically try to do the right thing throughout their lives. It’s a breath of fresh air to see how many served the public good, quietly and steadily. So many of them constituted the warp and woof of a healthy democratic social fabric.
And these profiles are also a pleasure to read from a reading standpoint alone, beautifully edited as they are by Deborah Smullyan. It is often said that The New York Times has the best written and most interesting obituaries in the world. That is because those saying it don’t know of this terrific section of Harvard Magazine, which in that respect matches the Times in quality.
Kenneth E. MacWilliams ’58,
M.B.A. ’62, L ’62
The first paragraph of Spencer Lee Lenfield’s review of a biography of Edward Gorey (“The Memorable Eccentric,” March-April, page 68), refers to cross-hatching. The correct term in this instance is hatching.
And we inadvertently demoted puzzle-maker Paolo Pasco (“Remaking the Grid,” March-April, page 63), identifying him as a member of the class of 2023, which has not yet been admitted. A freshman this academic year, he is a member of the class of 2022.