by J. F. Kelly, Jr. | Coronado

In a graduate seminar on organizational behavior, we used to refer to some large universities as examples of loosely-coupled or loosely-governed organizations with different departments or schools within the university acting almost autonomously. Harvard University might serve as an example. Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell, from the outside at least, who makes policy and who is really in charge.

In some third world countries, university students exercise substantial influence on public affairs perhaps because they are perceived as better educated and more intelligent than the rest of the population. Student unrest and demonstrations have threatened the stability of governments and have resulted in changes in public policies. Happily, that is not the case in the United States where university students do not have a monopoly on enlightened opinion. Campus protests are not usually given much though by people in the real world and rarely make the news.

Harvard undergraduates might constitute an exception. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece recently, Ruth R. Wisse, a professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard, wrote about a university-sponsored celebration of the 50th anniversary of Harvard’s Committee on Degrees in Social Studies at which Martin Peretz, a former teacher in the program, was honored. Prof. Wisse says that Mr. Peretz had to be escorted across campus by police, surrounded by mobs of screaming students. His offense? He reportedly had questioned in a blog why Muslims don’t respond more vigorously to acts of terrorism against their own people. This is, apparently, not politically correct speech at Harvard. Recall that Larry Summers was canned for saying something about why more females don’t gravitate toward mathematics.

At Harvard and other universities, students have disrupted or shouted down speakers whose views conflicted with theirs and have succeeded in some cases, with the help of sympathetic faculty, in pressuring the university to cancel prominent speakers including government officials and senior military officials who had been invited to speak. So much for free speech on campus.

When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan was dean of Harvard Law School, she enforced a limit on the use of the school’s facilities by military recruiters because of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which the university believes discriminates against homosexuals. Although questioned about this during her confirmation hearings, she was nonetheless confirmed.

In 1969, Harvard students opposed to the Vietnam War agitated to purge “their” campus of “imperialist exploiters”, meaning members of the military. Student activism culminated in a mob of students storming University Hall. The protest turned even more violent and an ROTC facility was torched. The administration caved in and ROTC was expelled from campus. The radical students and professors won.

Today, over forty years later, the ROTC is still not welcome on Harvard Yard. Harvard students who wish to avail themselves of ROTC scholarships and opportunities must train at nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology where students presumably don’t determine the policy. A student handbook at Harvard reportedly cautions students against joining ROTC since that program is “inconsistent with Harvard’s values.” The number of Harvard students choosing ROTC has naturally declined.

In a recent interview with Boston Globe reporters and editors, Harvard’s president Drew Gilpin Faust said that the university would welcome the military training program back on campus only when the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is repealed. Faust meanwhile has been vocally supportive of a plan to grant legal status to young illegal immigrants who attend two years of college or serve for two years in the military. Senate majority leader Harry Reid tried to add this plan, known as the Dream Act, to the defense bill along with repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. This end run ploy was stymied by a Republican filibuster.

Harvard’s policy discriminates against the military which is still complying with the law of the land, which, for the time being at least, still includes the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy enacted by Congress during the Clinton Administration. Harvard’s policy deserves more than just condemnation. Taxpayers should persuade the federal government to deny any federal funds including research grants to Harvard until they stop discriminating against the military.

Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.) put it well when he said, “It is incomprehensible to me that Harvard does not allow ROTC to use its facilities, but welcomes students who are in the country illegally.”


copyright 2010 J.F. Kelly, Jr

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like