To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
I have appreciated the clarity of your coverage of the issues involved in the current discussion of the disclaimer affidavit under the National Defense Education Act. As I get a sense of student opinion from your columns and from casual discussions, I realize that quite a few students feel that too much fuss is being made about a mere ritual of words--words that will satisfy "politicians" but that have no possible educational consequences, while other students feel that it is hopeless for any one institution, or even group of institutions, to take a stand on principle against the inevitable. (There are still other students who feel that they should be free to accept loan money under the Act without interference from professors whose scruples stand in the way; this is not an easy issue to resolve, but in my judgment, Harvard would be remiss in its specific educational function to all its students if its actions as well as its curriculum didn't speak for freedom--and of course students who think otherwise needn't come to Harvard, and are free to go elsewhere to colleges that interpret their responsibilities to education differently.)
Some rituals are symbolically important and others are not; and the question as to when to make a stand is often not easy: I am reminded of the man in Nazi Germany who went to a psychiatrist because his right arm was paralyzed--his arm wouldn't let him give the Nazi salute that the situation demanded of him. I think the disclaimer affidavit is an important symbol for (like Dean John Monro and many others) I don't want to see students made even more cautious by such reminders of potential danger in political involvement; and I believe such an involvement to be one of the essential qualities of education. And, as for the defeatist group of students who feel, "What's the point of making a fight," I can only testify from my own experience that one doesn't know how many allies one has until one makes a fight (or enemies either), and that in this case there are many people, including government officials and "politicians" who would be indebted to Harvard for recalling them to their best selves. To see this happen--to see apparently monolithic nihilism or apathy give way--is also educative.
As the discussions about rejoining NSA have shown, it is not every day that students have the opportunity to take part in an issue that is at once educationally and politically relevant. I think this one is. David Riesman '31, Henry Ford professor of Social Sciences.