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Freedom But

In response to:

Protest from the February 15, 1968 issue

To the Editors:

Professor Marx’s letter [NYR, Feb. 12, 1968] takes as its premise the fact that “the Fulbright scholar is left entirely free to express critical opinions of American foreign policy.” He goes on from that point to explain the ticklishness of this very freedom.

Unfortunately the premise is wrong. I write as a Fulbright teacher in Spain against whom the State Department pistol—which at first looks surprisingly like a lollipop—has been leveled. Let me not be obscure. I quote verbatim a statement from the Board of Foreign Scholarships of the US State Department distributed in January to all American students and teachers currently abroad under the Fulbright-Hays program.

In its own way the rhetoric is cunningly skillful. Mr. Marx himself might have written the noble first paragraph. Rusk and Goebbels collaborated on the last. The State Department is obviously scared to death…. But the document speaks for itself.

THE RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS OF GRANTEES

A fundamental purpose of the educational exchange program under the Fulbright-Hays Act is to increase mutual understanding through direct contact between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. To achieve this purpose, it is imperative that the program abide by principles of personal and intellectual freedom generally accepted in the United States Constitutional system and in the educational community. Grantees under the Fulbright-Hays law are private citizens, and they therefore retain the rights of private citizens to agree or disagree with their Government’s political or foreign policy positions. The free, non-political character of the educational exchange program has been one of its hallmarks since its inception in 1946.

The Board of Foreign Scholarships believes, however, that individual grantees have an obligation to protect the non-political character of the program during their participation in it. Whether they agree or disagree with government policies, they should be aware that public political utterances or activity while abroad can in certain circumstances draw the Fulbright-Hays program into the political arena. This is a matter for individual judgment and self-discipline, and no iron-clad rule can be laid down. The Board believes it appropriate, however, to indicate its belief that grantees have such a personal moral obligation to support the purposes of the Fulbright-Hays program.

It should also be recognized that American citizens who make political statements abroad or engage in other activities with political connotations may sometimes be embroiling themselves in the domestic politics of their host country even when they wish only to express their agreement or disagreement with the United States Government policy. The holding of a Fulbright-Hays grant is incompatible with engaging in activities that are part of the domestic political processes of other countries, and when behaviour of grantees shows a deliberate intention to engage in such activities or unreasonable negligence in considering the implications of one’s conduct, this may be reason for revocation of the grant.”

Maurice Bassan

Associate Professor of English

San Francisco State College

Fulbright Lecturer in American

Literature, University of Valladolid

Valladolid, Spain

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