Letter from Franklin L. Ford, Dean of Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, to Harvard President Nathan Pusey

February 11, 1969

Dear Nate:

Having just written you the necessary report of this Faculty's vote of last Tuesday concerning the ROTC, I should now like confidentially and informally to set down a few thoughts of my own.

As you know, I disagree with many of the particulars, and virtually all of the spirit, of the resolution passed by my own Faculty. This is not a pleasant situation in which to find oneself, especially since in discharging my duty to make public that resolution, I have inevitably been identified by many outside critics as one of its proponents. However, I am here underlining my own attitude only to be sure that neither you nor any other member of the Governing Boards is in any doubt about it.

. . . All that was needed from the Faculty was a general statement of direction, accompanied by a request for the creation of a committee to negotiate details.

What we have instead is a very badly framed, gratuitously unpleasant and basically confused pronouncement. . . . But what bothers me most is the underlying theme of the entire resolution, a desire to go on record against all things military, unaccompanied by any rational evaluation of the effects of such action on a large number of non-militaristic people, upon vast questions of foreign policy (which effect I should suppose to be just about nil) and upon the public standing of this University (which effect, by contrast, I can well imagine being massive).

One more word of background. The so-called "CEP alternative" was not in my opinion a very good one. Quite by accident, the two meetings at which it was drafted were both ones I had to miss - the first because of a conference in Italy, the second be cause of the flu - so I was left in the position of not being able to defend a formulation which seemed to many people unnecessarily and perhaps even intentionally, oblique. Yet it struck me a unthinkable that I should repudiate the work of my own principal advisory committee. So much for this period of what I hope will turn out to have been only temporary impotence.

As to where we go from here, that is obviously something for you and the rest of the Corporation to decide. It is not my intention to try to guess that body's reactions or its views as to viable options. However, I should feel irresponsible if I did not suggest very briefly what any of several possible reactions might represent as appraised from my particular angle.

(1) The Corporation might, though I doubt that it would, flatly reject the Faculty's recommendations as unacceptable. The trouble here is that interwoven among points with respect to which the Faculty's competence is questionable, to say the least, are other points, having to do with the curriculum as such, where delegation of responsibility to the Faculty has been virtually complete.

(2) It might be that a request for expressions of opinion from other Faculties of the University, especially that of Law, would remind people both inside and outside the institution that this is truly a university-wide problem. Such referral, however, might only make things worse unless Derek Bok were able to say with some certainty what his assembled colleagues would do - and the last time I talked to him, he just was not sure.

(3) The Corporation might decide, purely on the strength of the vote from Arts and Sciences, to open exploratory discussion on behalf of the University with the three service Departments in Washington, perhaps using an advisory committee drawn from all the Faculties involved. Thereafter, if some clearly non-negotiable point emerged - such as the title of Professor for the head of each unit, as an absolute requirement for the maintenance of such units at the University - the negotiators could come back to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, either with a question as to how to treat that condition or with a flat announcement that the Corporation would offer professorial appointments to the ROTC unit heads, quite outside the structure of this Faculty.

(4) The one other alternative I have been able to conceive would be a decision not to accept these recommendations from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in their present form, but instead to refer them back to the Faculty for whatever additional work and discussion is required to make them usable as a basis for further action. This course would occasion loud squeals; but there are two things to be said for it. First, the SFAC [Student Faculty Advisory Committee] resolution was badly drafted - and I know that at least some of the Faculty members who voted for it were aware of its imprecision. Second, because of this bad drafting, we are left with no reliable notion as to how many members voted on the basis of vague emotionalism and how many others voted because they find the present departmental-curricular situation genuinely anomalous. At the very least, it would help to have the questions put separately, so that one might have some idea of what kind of Faculty opinion he has to deal with.

Finally, having jotted down these quite candid thoughts without presuming to go very far in elaborating or grading them (though my own preference for the fourth alternative just cited must be apparent), let me add one final reflection which is as necessary to state clearly as it is difficult to state tastefully. This has to do with my own position as Dean.

... On issue after issue this winter the Faculty has disregarded the recommendations of its own committees and its own administrative officers, preferring to substitute the quickly formulated product of emotional debate for a considered judgment by people - including many besides myself - who had tried to weigh all the arguments heard at the Faculty meeting, and a number of others as well.

Somehow, without seeming to threaten in any egocentric way, I feel I must get before the Faculty the simple truth that in the atmosphere created by recent meetings it will be virtually impossible to hold the services of a Fred Glimp or a Chase Peterson or the remarkably hardworking professors who make it equally clear that in such an atmosphere it will be completely impossible for anyone who also cares about teaching and scholarship to justify what seems to be an increasingly futile effort to represent his colleagues as Dean of Faculty.

Yours sincerely,

Franklin L. Ford

This letter was taken in April 1969 by demonstrators from files in Harvard's University Hall and published in a "Strike Special" of the Cambridge radical newspaper The Old Mole (Number 2, April 13 1969).