Letter from Harvard— Dow Shalt Not

Letter from Harvard— Dow Shalt Not

University demonstrations against Dow Chemical erupted in the weeks immediately following the Washington march on the Pentagon on October 21. The Harvard sit-in took place on October 25. Dr. Frederick Leavitt, director of Dow’s lab in Wayland, Mass., was confined for about seven hours in a room he was using to conduct job interviews. Nearly 300 members of the university blocked the corridors outside Dr. Leavitt’s office.

Yet, despite the size of the crowd, the sit-in was essentially orderly. There was neither personal abuse nor violence. University officials were allowed free access to the recruiting room, and people who chose to address the crowd (even in opposition to the demonstrators) were listened to. The demonstrators made their decisions by majority vote, and it was by voting that they finally disbanded. An extraordinary form of due process was thus used to deprive someone of his liberty for several hours. Criticism of the Vietnam War had shifted, on one more occasion, from dissent to what is loosely called resistance.

Such resistance can be an extremely effective kind of protest. The government needs continually to be reminded of the fact that a great many people are actively hostile to its policy in Vietnam. Latent antiwar feelings must be activated, and individuals be given concrete means of expressing those feelings. The Harvard sit-in clearly contributed toward all these ends. Like all such demonstrations, it produced some backlash, but probably a minimal amount compared to the galvanizing potency of its frontlash.