To the Editors:
I was greatly interested in Sigmund Diamond’s review of Education and Politics at Harvard (NYR, April 28) and was tempted to write then as my experiences were very similar to his. Sympathetic though I was to Diamond’s account, I did not feel he had been fair to the book in hand. Not only did the account concern itself with only one section of one chapter of the book, it was not even entirely fair to that section, written by Seymour Martin Lipset. It was Lipset’s chapter, after all, that first opened the discussion and no reader of that chapter could believe that Harvard had acted well in the McCarthy period. When I read the, to me, thoroughly shocking letter of McGeorge Bundy in the May 26 issue, however, I knew that I had to reply. I had believed on the basis of events that I will detail below that Bundy had repudiated, at least in his own mind, actions of the Harvard administration during 1954 and 1955. By his letter I see that this is not so and that Harvard’s capitulation to McCarthyism is still being defended as a form of resistance to McCarthyism. An account of my experiences will, I believe, support Diamond’s and not Bundy’s interpretation of those years.
I was a member of the Communist Party as a Harvard undergraduate from 1947 to 1949. During that period I was mainly involved in the John Reed Club, a recognized student organization concerned with the study of Marxism. In that connection I might recount an incident that indicates that a difference between a public policy and a private policy at Harvard such as Diamond has suggested may already have begun in 1949. According to Lipset:
In 1949, the John Reed Club sponsored a talk by a well-known Communist, Ger-hart Eisler, who was on his way to a job in East Germany after having been convicted for contempt of Congress. When the University was attacked for allowing students to be corrupted, William Bender, then Dean of Harvard College, defended the students’ right to hear, stating: “If Harvard students can be corrupted by an Eisler, Harvard College had better shut down as an educational institution…. [p. 182]
I was, I believe, chairman of the John Reed Club at the time and was informed shortly after we announced that Eisler would speak that the university was considering forbidding the meeting and that the chairman and executive committee of the Club were asked to meet with an administrative officer. The administrator told us in the strongest terms that the invitation was extremely embarrassing for Harvard and asked us for the good of the school to withdraw the invitation. When we stood fast he told us that quite probably none of us would ever get jobs if we persisted in our course of action. The Harvard administration was attempting to do privately and indirectly what it would not do publicly and brazenly, namely suppress freedom of speech, which was precisely the aim of McCarthy.
In the summer of 1954 when I was a graduate student nearing completion of a PhD in Sociology and Far Eastern Languages, married and with a child born only weeks before, I was summoned to the office of McGeorge Bundy, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Bundy told me that an “officer of the university” had informed him of my political past and that I had an obligation of “complete candor,” as he put it, to confess my activities and to name all of my former associates to the FBI or to any other duly authorized body. I told him that my membership was entirely during my period as a Harvard undergraduate, that my associates were almost entirely other students and that my activities consisted wholly in thought and speech. I indicated, as did Diamond, that I had no knowledge of any illegal activities whatever. He informed me that not only was “complete candor” necessary but that my fellowship would be cancelled and my academic future would be clouded indeed if I failed to cooperate.
Anyone who can imagine the atmosphere in America in the summer of 1954 will understand how devastated I was. I felt utterly violated by this demand, and utterly unconvinced that in an atmosphere of extreme political persecution there was any moral obligation of “candor” such as Bundy spoke of. What took over was sheer survival instinct. How far could I compromise with evil without losing my own soul? It was in that moment that I came to the position that Bundy now describes as “morally superior,” that is (in respect to Diamond) “his choice of candor about himself along with refusal to name other names to the FBI.” At the time Bundy did not suggest that my position was “morally superior,” but only repeated that if I did not cooperate fully I would lose my fellowship. He also told me that he was appointing two professors that he knew I worked with to persuade me to adopt his views.
It is hardly necessary to point out that none of the arguments Bundy uses to justify his actions in the Diamond case apply to mine. In the incident described above there was no appointment, teaching or administrative, involved. I was not even a teaching fellow. I was a mere graduate student whose fellowship was being put in jeopardy to obtain compliance with the political pressures of the day.
One week after meeting with Bundy I was picked up on the street by two FBI agents and taken to the Boston office for interrogation. I suppose that technically I went voluntarily but it did not feel very voluntary. The issue soon came to naming other people. About my own activities their records were more accurate than my memories. Most of the meeting and one subsequent meeting were devoted to more or less intense psychological pressure to get me to name other people. In the course of this they tempted me by naming individuals and suggesting things they knew about them as though it would not really do much harm for me to say a bit more. I insisted resolutely on my moral position but I was impressed that they came up with names and events I had long forgotten. Indeed I wondered whether the real purpose of all this was not information, which they seemed to have in superabundance, but some further form of cooperation.
Of the two professors appointed by Bundy one said simply, “do as your conscience dictates.” The other urged upon me the moral obligation of “complete candor.” My immediate worry was my fellowship. As it turned out it was not a university fellowship but a fellowship from the Harvard-Yenching Institute, a separate corporation. Immediately upon his return from Paris in September I went to see Serge Elisséeff, Director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute, a distinguished Japanologist and a Russian who had left at the time of the revolution. As I told Elisséeff of my interview with Bundy he became extremely agitated. He said, his voice almost a whisper, “This is just like Russia. As long as I am here your fellowship is safe.”
My fellowship began as usual in the fall, but naturally I was extremely apprehensive about the future. I hoped to receive my degree in June of 1955 and was concerned about what kind of job I could get. My decision to try to finish quickly was confirmed when the professor who had urged candor told me I probably would not receive a Harvard-Yenching fellowship the following year. My job anxiety increased when an old professor and advisor who knew of my political past because I had told him of it informed me that he would be glad to write job recommendations for me but that he would have to include information about my past political affiliations. Naturally I did not ask him for letters.
Early in the spring I was quite surprised when Talcott Parsons, Professor of Sociology and my teacher, who had not been involved in any of the earlier discussions and did not even know what had been going on, told me that the Social Relations Department was considering appointing me to a instructorship for the following year, a one-year term appointment normally renewable for several years. I indicated that there might be serious problems with Bundy. There were indeed. Bundy called me in and told me that my appointment was being considered but that it was the policy of the Harvard Corporation that if during the year of my appointment I were called by any duly authorized body (the McCarthy Committee, the Jenner Committee, the House Unamerican Activities Committee and a Massachusetts legislative committee on Unamerican Activities were all active at the time) and refused to answer any question, including questions about the names of my former associates, the Corporation would not feel bound to renew my appointment as lecturer even though my teaching activities were satisfactory. I told him I could not accept the appointment on those terms. I believed that as long as I remained anonymous there was at least the hope of a job. All I needed was to be publicly exposed, perhaps jailed for contempt, and then let go by Harvard (not fired for there is no obligation to renew a one-year contract). In this interview Bundy did not tell me that my position was “morally superior.” Indeed he reiterated that he strongly believed I should divulge the names of others. After probing my reasons for holding my position he did say, however, that he thought I would make an effective witness, perhaps more attractive than some of those who were “fully cooperative.” Since all I had ever received from him was unrelenting pressure for “candor” I did not feel reassured by the compliment.
Parsons and others who supported me hoped to get the Corporation to change its mind. I was even told that President Pusey hoped the Corporation would change its mind. So the matter was not closed and Bundy made a further request of me, one that I found strange but with which I complied. This was a request to visit an official at the Harvard Health Service.
My interview with the official of the Health Service was the strangest event in this strange story. Even in the extraordinary atmosphere of that period when many strange things seemed ordinary that interview was bizarre. He began after a few pleasantries with a story about someone who worked for the State Department who decorated his apartment with pictures of naked women to hide the fact that he was a homosexual. I listened in amazement wondering what this had to do with me. He became less indirect and began asking whether I had ever engaged in sexual acts for which I could be blackmailed. I was trying desperately to understand what was happening when I remembered that six or seven years earlier when I had been an undergraduate I had consulted a doctor in the psychological clinic of the Health Service about feelings and anxieties not uncommon to college undergraduates. Even when I heard myself denying, quite truthfully, that I had ever engaged in such acts, I felt deeply humiliated by being asked the question and betrayed by the use of information that had been obtained in a situation of medical confidentiality. I cannot help but wonder what would have happened if I had been a practicing homosexual. Did Harvard’s willingness to exert political pressure extend to sexual persecution as well?
Negotiations with the Corporation dragged on and the deadline approached with respect to my one viable alternative for the following year, a post-doctoral fellowship at the Islamic Institute in McGill University in Montreal, Canada. I did not feel able to give up the fellowship on the chance that the Corporation would change its policy, though Parsons and others urged me to. I went to Canada in the fall of 1955. In 1957 I returned to Harvard with a research appointment and the promise of a subsequent teaching appointment. By then McCarthy was dead and the hysteria over. I was specifically told that there were no conditions on this appointment such as those that I had previously been given. McGeorge Bundy was still dean. I remained at Harvard for ten years until, as a full professor, I took my present position at Berkeley in 1967.
There is no reason to think that the treatment of Diamond and me was unique. I know of another case where a graduate student was threatened with the loss of his teaching fellowship and any future academic appointment if he did not show candor, including quite explicitly naming names. This person, whose party experience was very similar to my own, was also taken in by the FBI shortly after seeing Bundy.
It seems to me quite clear that during 1954 and 1955 and perhaps beginning as early as 1949 Harvard University through its governing boards and its administrative apparatus in effect cooperated with a massive effort to suppress political dissent. Though often rationalized in the name of “resisting McCarthyism” actions were repeatedly taken to pressure people into cooperating with McCarthyism and its purposes. The notion of Harvard as a “bulwark against McCarthyism” was deserved only on the narrowest of legalistic grounds. No one with tenure was fired. But privately Harvard’s efforts were all in the direction of cooperation, not resistance. As the recipient of what Bundy calls “cruel pressures” I can say that they were indeed cruel. They came from the Harvard Administration and from the FBI working in tandem with the Harvard Administration.
Unlike Professor Diamond, I have had a long association with Harvard, both before and after the events narrated here. Indeed with only minor interruptions, of which the two years in Canada were the longest, twenty crucial years of my life were spent at Harvard. I am class of ’48, PhD 1955, and I attained the highest normal teaching rank before leaving. I owe much to Harvard and my life is indelibly formed by it. It has never occurred to me to reject the institution as a whole and all it stood for, for that would involve among other things a rejection of much of myself. But I know from personal experience that Harvard did some terribly wrong things during the McCarthy period and that those things have never been publicly acknowledged. At its worst it came close to psychological terror against almost defenseless individuals. Elisséeff was right. For a while Harvard was beginning to resemble Russia. The university and the secret police were in collusion to suppress political dissent and even to persecute dissenters who had changed their minds if they were not willing to become part of the persecution. The Health Service incident seems more like something out of Solzhenitsyn than what one would expect at Harvard.
It was my assumption that the errors that had been made were tacitly admitted. Indeed I took my return in 1957 as such an admission since I was as adamant then as I had ever been against the idea of “complete candor.” I was, therefore, quite stunned by the tone of Bundy’s letter of May 26. It was as though we were back in 1954 and Harvard and its administrative officers had done nothing wrong. Perhaps it is indeed time to set the record straight.
Mr. Bundy has been kind enough to show me his rejoinder, which follows my letter. There are many discrepancies between our accounts. I hope he will join with me in asking the President and Fellows of Harvard University to find an independent scholar who would be given access to all the documents and who would interview all the principals so that the full story of Harvard’s actions during the McCarthy period could be, so far as possible, made public. If, as I believe, Harvard did not act then with the exemplary courage that we might have expected, she could now provide moral leadership in making public what has too long remained hidden. The McCarthy episode is not an isolated incident in American history. Such episodes remain recurrent possibilities. As a great Harvard philosopher, George Santayana, said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Robert N. Bellah
Ford Professor of Sociology and Comparative Studies
University of California, Berkeley
To the Editors:
Robert Bellah’s case is entirely different from Sigmund Diamond’s, and while I do not agree with parts of his account, I do agree that I urged candor on him (though far less fiercely and singlemindedly than he suggests), and that in 1955 the Harvard Corporation instructed me to warn him that if he took a different course before legally constituted public authorities he could not expect his approved one-year appointment to be renewed. I thought that this was a mistaken warning, because I thought then, as I still do, that Robert Bellah was a man of high character and remarkable scholarship. His case is the only one I had to handle in which the Corporation took a specific action that I disagreed with. That is why I was sorry that Mr. Bellah accepted his appointment at McGill before we could get the warning reconsidered, and why I have always been glad that the matter was put right two years later.
As I said in my earlier letter, the Corporation did publicly attach a negative weight to incomplete candor on the part of ex-Communists, even for teaching appointments; that weight lasted until about 1956. The behavior of a number of these individuals (though by no means all) gave reason for this position. But Mr. Bellah in fact won Mr. Pusey’s respect and my own not only by his unusual scholarly quality but by his reasoned insistence on a different course, “morally superior,” as I have said, to taking the Fifth Amendment. We did not agree with his course; I urged him to change it; but we respected it. That is why I strongly recommended him for appointment in 1955 (in a 2,000-word letter that I have shared with him by telephone), and why Mr. Pusey and I both worked to ensure his later unconditional appointments and promotions.
Yet even Mr. Bellah is prone to leaps of fancy on matters relating to his Party past. There was no “working in tandem” between Harvard and the FBI, and no effort to “persecute” him by anyone at Harvard. Harvard in fact stood by him at every step but one, and against the advice of his best friends there he went to McGill before that one mistake could be reviewed. No one ever tried to revoke his fellowship; I myself made a very prompt decision in 1954 that that would be wrong. Serge Elisséeff certainly agreed with my decision, but he was not the sole protector Mr. Bellah suggests. Both the Faculty and the Administration tried to get him an unconditional appointment and eventually succeeded.
As Mr. Bellah’s letter itself reveals, it was not Harvard he really had to fear; it was the government. Canada was indeed a safer shelter than Cambridge in 1955 for someone whose deepest hope was anonymity and whose deepest fear was prosecution. It was Leon Kamin and Wendell Furry who had to face public trial after bravely putting the Fifth Amendment to one side, and it was the prosecution’s failure in their cases, in 1956, that did most to clear the air for all concerned.
Finally, because he is not alive to defend himself, I will say that I find it flatly inconceivable that the senior administrator Mr. Bellah mentions (and whose name he has given me) would have threatened him with blacklisting. At the most, I believe, he would have warned him of the deep hostilities he was courting, and if so the advice was hardly more than any responsible administrator should have offered any young Communist in 1949. What else but such hostility—and perhaps his own ambivalence—led Mr. Bellah to conceal his Communist past for so long? (Indeed when I first replied to Mr. Diamond I thought Mr. Bellah still preferred privacy. I have since learned that he published a brief account of his experience in 1970.) Similarly, Mr. Bellah’s account of his interview at the Health Services, even if accurate, which the interviewing officer says it is not, is proof of that officer’s discretion, not of Harvard’s “inquisition.” Our shared memory is that the officer gave Bellah’s appointment his support at the time and made no report of his particular undergraduate anxieties. (I referred Mr. Bellah to that officer, incidentally, because Mr. Bellah had told me, on his own initiative, that he had undergone prolonged psychotherapy, and because I wished to reinforce my own assurance to the Corporation that he was nonetheless a man of strength and balance.)
The unfairness of these accusations, made only after more than twenty years of silence, reflects the mixture of animus and self-pity, and also the assumption of conspiracy, that can recapture so many ex-Communists still when they review their Communist and post-Communist experiences. These attitudes are otherwise quite uncharacteristic of Mr. Bellah, who has shown his natural dignity and courage many times under many stresses.
Mr. Bellah’s suggestion that this history should have an authoritative review is one I am happy to endorse (although I regret his present reluctance to make corrections plainly indicated by the record I have shared with him). That his story and Mr. Diamond’s quite different one have remained private so long was after all a consequence mainly of their own passionate preferences. (I am sure Mr. Bellah would agree that if there are others who still feel as he once did, those feelings should be respected.) I have no doubt that any such study will find mistakes by Harvard. In my own case it will probably show that I was an incompletely sensitive interpreter between two very different kinds of men—on the one hand those who were then the Fellows of the Harvard Corporation and on the other the handful of ex-Communists I met as Dean.
But I think any study will also show something else: that because of the personal courage and integrity of the President, the Corporation, and the Faculty, there was no case at Harvard in which the University failed to respect the full term of a teaching or research appointment, and no case in which the Governing Boards allowed any political question to prevent the eventual academic appointment or promotion of a scholar that the relevant Department or Faculty truly wanted to attract or keep. To me this was and is the heart of the matter.
New York City
To the Editors:
In your April 28 issue, Sigmund Diamond uses Education and Politics at Harvard as a hook on which to hang his own version of a slice of Harvard’s history with which he was deeply and personally involved. His basic complaint seems to be that his personal situation was not described more fully and sympathetically in the book written by Martin Lipset and David Riesman. Your thoughtful readers will realize that this book was concerned with more than three centuries of episodes in which there were thousands of participants whose personal recollections and archives might yield elaboration and variety of perspective. Their stories, too, are summed up in mere sentences, perhaps even phrases, in the volume. In such a history, the authors must frequently settle for statements of the net outcomes of events based on their own best judgment as opposed to anthologies of the points of view of everyone involved.
From Professor Diamond’s personal, partial, and interested point of view, the net outcomes of the events upon which he concentrates are different from those perceived by the authors of the book he reviews. He challenges not only the authors, but also the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, which sponsored the research and writing that produced the book, using his review to “test” the fairness and objectivity of the Carnegie Commission itself.
He notes that one of the authors and Nathan Pusey, former president of Harvard, were members of the Commission and that both of the authors had served at one time or another on the Commission’s technical advisory committee. That much is true. He stresses in his review that he knows both authors, yet he apparently neglected to ask them before his review was written if the Commission had in any way influenced what they wrote about Harvard. Had he done so, he would have quickly learned that no such influence was ever exerted.
What is no doubt intended as the clinching proof of the Commission’s behind-the-scenes conspiracy is Professor Diamond’s statement that “before the book had been completed, the Commission set forth its conclusions, and summed up their significance, in part, as follows:
“[The] commitment to intellectual creativity [at Harvard] carried with it an emphasis on academic freedom for both faculty and students and an enhancement of faculty power…. During the McCarthy period of the early fifties, Harvard was the Wisconsin Senator’s leading symbolic target in his campaign against intellectual dissidents and Communists.”
This excerpt, which constitutes the heart of Professor Diamond’s test of the Commission, is manipulated for his own purposes. It is taken from a volume of abstracts entitled Sponsored Research of the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, published in 1975. The final policy report of the Commission appeared in 1973. Professor Diamond fails to report that the abstract from which his excerpt is taken is accompanied by the following footnote: “This abstract was prepared by the authors [emphasis added] before the final manuscript for the full report was completed.” There was also an explanation in the foreword to the volume in which the abstract appeared that noted that in cases where a report had not been completed before press time for the compilation, the authors had been asked to provide an abstract in advance. I do not know what more the Commission needed to do in order to prevent readers from reaching the erroneous conclusion that Professor Diamond did—that the Commission itself had written the summaries of books that were uncompleted at the time the abstracts were published in collected form.
The passage that Professor Diamond cites has also been manipulated. The sentence that appears before the four dots in the original passage refers to the achievements of Charles Eliot at the end of the Civil War and is separated by three paragraphs from the sentence referring to the McCarthy period. The proper linkage of the ideas is obscured by Professor Diamond by changing the word “This” in the original passage (referring to Eliot’s efforts to make Harvard a graduate and research institution) to “[The],” which makes the sentence on academic freedom and faculty power appear to be the topic sentence for the abstract’s discussion of the McCarthy period.
Such manipulation of the text to which Professor Diamond elects to speak strongly suggests that he and not the Carnegie Commission has flunked the test of fairness and objectivity he purported to apply. I do not know or care about Professor Diamond’s politics past and present, but I do have a fleeting interest in the quality of his scholarship. I trust that this piece is not reflective of it.
Chairman, Carnegie Council on Policy
Studies in Higher Education
To the Editors:
We do not wish to enter into the dispute about what McGeorge Bundy did or did not say to Sigmund Diamond in 1954 (NYR, April 28). We were, however, members of the Harvard faculty in the 1950s, and we wish to warn against unwarranted inferences that might be drawn from Mr. Diamond’s recital. In our view and experience, Mr. Bundy was a very remarkable Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard—remarkable in his hospitality to new ideas, in his recruitment of new talent and in his devotion to academic freedom. Under his leadership Harvard completed an irreversible change, begun under James Conant, from an institution designed to serve the northeastern upper class into a national university drawing on young men and women of all classes, colors and creeds. We found him invariably open-minded and fair-minded. While we did not agree at all times with his particular opinions, we never doubted that he would, with determination and vigor, defend his faculty in the expression of its diverse opinions on all questions, sacred and profane.
Marshall Cohen, John Conway, Paul Doty, J. Kenneth Galbraith, Stephen Graubard, Stanley Hoffmann, Carl Kaysen, John Meyer, Joseph Palamountain, Willard Quine, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., William Slottman, Zeth Stewart, James D. Watson, Richard Wilbur
Sigmund Diamond replies:
- Professor Bellah’s letter requires little comment from me. What he experienced at Harvard was cruel and shocking, and we are in his debt for his account. Perhaps others will be encouraged by his example to help complete the record.
Professor Bellah suggests that Harvard “could now provide moral leadership” by making available to an independent scholar the documents relating to the McCarthy period. I join Professor Bellah in thinking that Harvard could make “public what has too long remained hidden.” I would hope that inquiries would be carried out by any independent scholars who feel that the truth about Harvard in the McCarthy period is important for our knowledge of the history of American politics and education. My interest in such investigations is not to indict the actors, but to inquire into the pressures that forced an institution as powerful, as autonomous, as great as Harvard to compromise its own clear commitment to truth and academic freedom. If we knew what those pressures were and how they worked, we might not be condemned to suffer them again.
Professor Bellah’s story has implications not only for understanding what Harvard’s policy actually was during the McCarthy period but also for understanding how the myth about its behavior was successfully maintained for so many years. Mr. Bundy can no longer assert that the Harvard administration handled my case as it did because only an administrative job was involved. The question of Harvard’s relation to the FBI now becomes even more pointed. Are there any documents to confirm that it was really the policy of the Harvard Corporation—as Mr. Bundy told Mr. Bellah—to require “full disclosure.” The rest of the world had no reason to suspect that.
Nor would outsiders have known the events Professor Bellah describes if they depended for their knowledge of education and politics at Harvard on Professor Lipset’s essay. The episode dealing with the talk by Gerhart Eisler to the John Reed Club is mentioned by Professor Lipset, but in such a partial way as completely to alter its meaning. Professor Lipset ends his account by quoting Dean Bender’s statement: “If Harvard students can be corrupted by an Eisler, Harvard College had better shut down as an educational institution….” Nowhere in Mr. Lipset’s essay do we learn what Professor Bellah tells us—that the officers of the Club were asked privately to withdraw the invitation and were threatened with reprisals if they did not. An attack on academic freedom is presented as a defense of academic freedom.
- Mr. Bundy’s letter uses words not to reveal the facts, but for purposes of seduction. “I do agree,” he writes, “that I urged candor” on Mr. Bellah, as if Mr. Bellah had been other than candid. Mr. Bundy didn’t urge candor, i.e., honesty in expressing oneself; he wanted him to name names. Mr. Bellah “is prone to leaps of fancy on matters relating to his Party past,” Mr. Bundy says. Mr. Bellah was not writing of his Party past, but of his Harvard past. There was not a single case at Harvard in which “the University failed to respect the full term of a teaching or research appointment,” Mr. Bundy says. Reading this, we might recall his letter to President Pusey on May 6, 1954 [quoted in NYR, May 26] setting forth why the appointments I then held should be allowed to run their course—“If he were removed now, we should not be able to avoid extensive public discussion of his situation. If his appointment is allowed to expire, we may well be able to end his connection with the University without publicity….”
Mr. Bundy says that when he wrote his answer to my article he “thought Mr. Bellah still preferred privacy.” But it would have been possible for Mr. Bundy to have mentioned the case—and what he now calls his disapproval of the Corporation’s position—without mentioning Mr. Bellah’s name. It was not Harvard that Mr. Bellah “really had to fear; it was the government,” Mr. Bundy writes. But it was the Harvard administration that insisted that Mr. Bellah confess, that threatened him with loss of employment if he did not, and that wanted him to go to the FBI even before the FBI had come to him. Mr. Bellah had to fear both Harvard and the government.
In 1964, in an essay entitled “The Battlefields of Power and the Searchlights of the Academy,” Mr. Bundy wrote:
So vast indeed is the set of connections which now bind the world of power and the world of learning that it is a matter of the greatest difficulty to isolate particular parts of the connection for close analysis.
…I believe there are great opportunities for a much wider and stronger connection between universities and governments than we yet have….
What there is not enough of yet, and what I come to praise, is the kind of academic work which proceeds from the same center of concern as that of the man who is himself committed to an active part in government. That center of concern is the taking and use of power itself.
Writing in Daedalus in the summer of 1970, Mr. Bundy had a different center of concern:
Turning back to the fifties, I will assert that we were right on one absolutely vital point: we knew what the university was for: learning. The university is for learning—not for politics, not for growing up, not even for virtue, except as these things cut in and out of learning and except also as they are necessary elements of all good human activity. The university is for learning as an airplane is for flying…. If learning is the defining end, then freedom is the defining means—the freedom of both faculty and students. And that freedom is essentially freedom in relation to learning. Many other freedoms inhere in humanity and in citizenship, and neither the university nor anyone else should interfere with them.
Mr. Bundy’s letter makes it evident that he did interfere with Professor Bellah’s freedoms. But even if one were to agree with him that Bellah’s case was “entirely different” from mine, which it was not, Mr. Bundy’s behavior was the same in both. Mr. Bundy now says that he disagreed with the policy of the Harvard Corporation in Professor Bellah’s case; just how he did so remains to be seen. He gives the impression that he was wiser than the Corporation, or more compassionate; but the conclusion I draw is that he did not have the courage to challenge a policy he says he disagreed with. The “learning” and the “freedom” he wrote about in 1970 took second place to politics in 1954. But when did politics not take first place? The Corporation’s “negative weight to incomplete candor”—Mr. Bundy means reprisal for refusing to confess and inform to government agencies—lasted, Mr. Bundy tells us, “until about 1956.” What made the Corporation’s policy change—second thoughts about its first policy, rethinking its own views on McCarthy or on ex-Communists? McCarthy had fallen; the political climate had changed, not Mr. Bundy’s or the Corporation’s views on academic freedom.
Mr. Bundy’s defense of his behavior in sending Mr. Bellah to an officer of the Harvard Health Services is that he wanted “to reinforce” his “own assurance to the Corporation” that Bellah was, despite prolonged psychotherapy, “a man of strength and balance.” Was that really the reason? Did Mr. Bundy make it a general practice to clear appointments with psychiatrists? If not, for whom did he reserve this treatment? For those who were uncooperative?
It seems, from his two letters, that Mr. Bundy regards at least some forms of political behavior with which he disagrees as causes of mental or emotional derangement. Can ex-Communists only demonstrate their mental stability by full confession? While Mr. Bundy’s friends have tried to support him by excluding the facts, Mr. Bundy justifies himself by impugning the mental condition of writers who challenge his own statements. Having said that my own memory was in error because I was under “great stress,” he now ascribes to Mr. Bellah “leaps of fancy,” “animus and self-pity.” Those who alter the contours of his official self-portrait risk being described as unstable.
- As to Mr. Kerr’s letter, I would have thought that what happened at Harvard—about which he is silent—is more important than to characterize me: I have a “personal, partial, and interested point of view”; I believe in a “behind-the-scenes conspiracy” between the Carnegie Commission and the authors of the book; I “flunk” the test of fairness and objectivity.
Professor Bellah’s letter should dispose of Mr. Kerr’s first charge, unless, of course, Mr. Kerr now indicts him, too, for having a personal and partial point of view. But as Mr. Bellah’s letter shows, what happened to me did not happen to me alone, and the importance of setting the record straight cannot be minimized by disparaging remarks about my desire for more sympathetic treatment of my “personal situation.”
Of course my account was partial. I wrote an account of an event I knew something about because I was a participant, and I documented my memory of that event with letters and testimony from others. I examined, moreover, a part of Professor Lipset’s essay that happens to be of critical importance—Harvard during the McCarthy period. The incompleteness of his account of that period not only suggests that his treatment of other episodes might stand in similar need of correction, but disproves his general conclusion on the relation of education and politics at Harvard. Mr. Kerr is disingenuous when he says that there are “thousands of participants whose personal recollections and archives might yield elaboration and variety of perspective.” Does the telling of Professor Bellah’s story and mine provide only “elaboration” and another “perspective”? Once the facts are known, presumably they can be looked at from different perspectives; but Professor Lipset did not present crucial facts, and Mr. Kerr attempts to justify that failure.
As to the second charge:
I challenge “not only the authors [incidentally, nowhere in my article or letters have I commented on Professor Riesman’s contribution to the book], but also the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, which sponsored the research and writing that produced the book….” Mr. Kerr succeeds in making a challenge to the Commission sound suspiciously like the crime of lèse-majesté. But I made no charges about a conspiracy between the Commission and anyone else, either “behind-the-scenes” or front-and-center. Let me assure Mr. Kerr that I do not believe any conspiracy existed.
Why, then, did I mention the connections between the authors, Mr. Pusey, and the Commission? Because these matters were not widely known and might have some bearing on the degree of confidence the public might have in the study, and because Mr. Pusey was, as a member of the Commission, in a position to pass judgment on his actions as president of Harvard. In other fields, similar situations are called a “conflict of interest.”
Two final points concerning this issue:
- I do not understand how Mr. Kerr can accuse me of having an “interested point of view” in this matter—because of my involvement in it—and not feel that Mr. Pusey was at least equally “interested.” Was he not involved in the events at Harvard?
- Mr. Kerr states that I “apparently neglected” to ask the authors if they had been influenced by the Commission. If I had done so, I “would have quickly learned that no such influence was ever exerted.” I did not “neglect” to ask the authors because it never occurred to me to do so. But why should Mr. Kerr believe that a denial would dispose of the possibility of influence? Do we take the word of those involved that they were not influenced?
As to the third charge:
I have “flunked the test of fairness and objectivity” because the paragraph I quoted from the volume of abstracts entitled Sponsored Research of the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education has been “manipulated.” I did not specifically cite the footnote which states that the abstract had been prepared “by the authors before the final manuscript” was completed. Does the Commission now object to the authors’ characterization of their work? Is Mr. Kerr suggesting that the Commission wishes to dissociate itself in any respect from that summary?
The evidence of my “manipulation” is, first, that I changed “this” to “the”; but I can hardly be accused of having attempted to conceal my “manipulation” since I placed the word “the” in brackets, indicating that it was my word, not that of the source from which I was quoting. Second, by using four dots instead of the sentences in the original text, I conflated a statement about what was true during the Eliot regime—commitment to intellectual creativity and its relation to academic freedom—with Harvard’s policy during the McCarthy period.
Mr. Kerr has caught a glimpse of the truth, but he doesn’t seem to have grasped the significance of what he has seen. Is he hinting that Mr. Pusey’s administration was not notable, as was Eliot’s, for a close connection between academic excellence and academic freedom? If that is his point, I would agree. But I do not think he is prepared to consider that possibility. The relation between intellectual creativity or intellectual excellence and academic freedom is the very theme of Professor Lipset’s essay, and that relation is seen by him to inform every period of Harvard’s history. I could have replaced the sentence before the four dots that Mr. Kerr finds offensive with any number of statements in Professor Lipset’s essay. For example:
…as Harvard took the road to scholarly greatness, the consequent freedom it emphasized for both faculty and students made it a center for innovative political and religious views. [P. 14]
…Those conservatives who fear challenges, and radicals who fail to understand that a commitment to intellectual creativity is the most continuing source of change in the modern world, will be unhappy. But as McGeorge Bundy once explained of Harvard, “the extraordinary freedom…was sustained…more by the universal commitment to the ideal of excellence,” than by anything else. [P. 256. Mr. Kerr should know that the dots in the Bundy quotation were put there by Professor Lipset, not me.]
Indeed, I am puzzled to know why Mr. Kerr makes so much of this point when he clearly agrees with me that Professor Lipset’s conclusion is that Harvard’s history shows that intellectual greatness requires academic freedom. In his foreword to the book, Mr. Kerr writes:
Professor Lipset’s essay…expresses the view that politically, relevant tensions are endemic to a university, and that such tensions are most intense at research universities, where there is great toleration for new ideas and where academic freedom most protects those who are critical and engage in reform politics. Professor Lipset documents his theory with reports of wave after wave of political activity that have taken place at Harvard since 1636.[P.x]
And then he continues: “Somebody needs to know everything about each college and university, but only about Harvard does everybody need to know something” (p. xi). But what is the “something” that everyone needs to know about Harvard? What Professor Lipset says, of course. And how about what Professor Lipset did not say?
- The fifteen friends of Mr. Bundy who write on his behalf rightly “warn against unwarranted inferences that might be drawn” from my account. But what of the warranted inferences, about which Mr. Bundy’s friends are silent? They “never doubted,” as they put it, “that he would, with determination and vigor, defend his faculty in the expression of its diverse opinion on all questions, sacred and profane.”
I do not question their lack of doubt, only whether Mr. Bundy’s behavior justified their being free of doubt. They wrote before they saw Mr. Bellah’s letter. It is clear now both that the dispute cannot be limited to what Mr. Bundy said to me and that he did not “invariably” act in accordance with their expectations of him. Perhaps we should all reserve final judgment on Mr. Bundy’s administration until we know more. For example: Which faculty members were, or were not, defended for “the expression of…diverse opinions”? How many prospective faculty members were barred from teaching positions for political reasons? How many graduate students were threatened with reprisals if they did not follow his recommended course of “full disclosure”? How many people besides Mr. Bellah were pressured to confess to the FBI even before the FBI had entered the picture?
At least two facts have been confirmed:
Pressures were exerted by the Harvard administration to force prospective faculty members to disclose the names of former political associates.
The Harvard administration never disclosed what its policy was in these situations and fostered the belief that its behavior was different from what in truth it was.
As for warranted inferences from what Professor Bellah and I have written, two seem to me justified:
There were some forms of cooperation between the Harvard administration and what Professor Bellah calls “the secret police.”
“Harvard University,” as Professor Bellah writes, “through its governing boards and its administrative apparatus in effect cooperated with a massive effort to suppress political dissent.”
My interest is not in indicting Mr. Bundy, but rather in knowing what happened at Harvard during the McCarthy period. I hope he treated others more decently than he treated Professor Bellah and me. But the curtain should be lifted, not lowered.
July 14, 1977