Articles written for AUFBAU by Leonard J. Lehrman

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LITERATURE Jewish Radicals at Harvard
[:A Review of Roger Rosenblatt's Coming ApartDraft#9 (short version)
AUFBAU 63:13 June 20, 1997 p14
2310 [minus 740, opt. = 1570] words
Copyright by Leonard Lehrman & AUFBAU
May-June 1997

[In the late 1960s, universities all over America were undergoing crises as students, frustrated by the Vietnam War and threatened by the draft, turned on intransigent administrations in hopes of changing the world, or at least making a symbolic gesture in their own immediate surroundings, such as getting universities to stop hosting the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). It was a rare time in American history, when the politics and passions of altruism and self-interest coincided, and the result was an explosion of radical energies.

The occupation by radical students (led largely by Jews) of University Hall at Harvard on April 9, 1969, followed by a middle-of-the-night police bust and a university-wide 10-day strike, eventually led to the banishment of ROTC from the campus, the establishment of a black studies program, and a new, more responsive administration. And eventually, too, the Vietnam War ended as well. The morality of the students' actions is, however, still being debated.]

Roger Rosenblatt has been called "America's preeminent commentator on social and moral issues." His latest book, _Coming Apart: A Memoir of the Harvard Wars of 1969 [(Little, Brown: 1997)], is a fascinating, if sometimes narrowly subjective, indexed portrait of people in academia, mostly Jews, mostly men, coming to terms with moral and political crises, and trying to learn from the experience. Unlike many of Rosenblatt's previous books, though, it contains no scholarly bibliography or list of works cited. It is a memoir. [Why Now?]

In a telephone interview with this writer, he was asked: Why did he choose to write this book now? Was it because, having not gotten tenure at Harvard, he had left to pursue a career first at the National Endowment for the Humanities, then at _Time_, _Life_, _The Washington Post_, _The New Republic_, and The (MacNeil/)Lehrer News Hour--yet just last year, nostalgic perhaps for academia, he accepted a position as Professor of English at Long Island University in Southampton? No, he said. It was because, after completing the prologue to _Clinton: Portrait of Victory_ (Warner, 1993), he had decided that his attitude towards those now running the country - the baby-boomer generation - was "so dim"; and he felt he could trace back "the roots of that attitude" to a time when he had discovered that he "didn't like students except as individuals."

In contrast to the attitudes of those days, he told Jack Sirica of _Newsday_ [(May 21, 1997)], students today "do not feel that the world was made for their entrance." One wonders if this reflects a change in generations or locations, i.e. from Harvard to LIU-Southampton. His greatest wrath in Coming Apart is reserved, however, for Harvard faculty members, and for the hypocrisy he observed and felt himself being coerced into going along with.

[Roger Rosenblatt]

A Jew from Gramercy Park, Roger Rosenblatt was a graduate of NYU in the Bronx, who entered Harvard as a graduate student in 1962. Though bar mitzvahed in an Orthodox shul (more out of rebellion at his parents' secularism than anything else), in 1963 he married Ginny, an Episcopalian, in a Unitarian Church, which in our interview he called "the compromise house of worship, so that the families would not have open warfare in the streets."

He still considers himself "a political Jew," meaning one who feels personally offended at any ethnic slurs or attacks on Israel. Their three children "all believe in God": Carl was Harvard '88; Amy is now at NYU Medical School; John, named after his father's mentor in the English Department, John Kelleher, will be entering Brown in the fall.

"The first summer of our marriage and the two years following" he describes as a "kind of idyll." He was an assimilated Jew, accepted by others, often of similar background. After a year doing his Ph.D. thesis on a Fulbright in Ireland, he returned to Cambridge, house-sat for a year, and then applied for the vacant job of Senior Tutor in Dunster House, but was warned by his predecessor "that getting the appointment would be an uphill fight because I was a Jew." The problem was the Master of Dunster, a biologist named Alwin Pappenheimer, "a terrifying type," who despite his own Jewish ancestry was "zealous in trying not to be Jewish," wanting to be thought of as New England WASP.

Harry Levin: The First Jew in Harvard's English Department

Another assimilated Jew Roger Rosenblatt worked with, actually the first Jew to receive tenure in Harvard's English Department, was Harry Levin (pronounced luh-VINN), whose father had been Jewish, but whose mother was not, and who had married a Russian Orthodox writer named Elena, who translated Trotsky. Elena, now 84, believes Rosenblatt has unfairly and inaccurately maligned her late husband in his book, by calling him "stuffy and manipulative," attributing his "aristocratic bearing" as "due equally to genuine intellectual superiority" and "genuine intellectual snobbiness." One incident involving Levin, which the author insists shows the hypocrisy of academia, actually points up his own small-mindedness:

In the fall of 1969, Rosenblatt had his first scholarly article accepted for publication. It concerned a subject on which Levin had also written an article, which Rosenblatt had not read. Believing, correctly, that every scholar should make an effort to cover his subject thoroughly, Levin had Department Chairman Morton Bloomfield (who died in 1993) call the Levin article to Rosenblatt's attention so he could read and cite it in his own. Rosenblatt felt offended, but did as he was expected to do, "stunned by this intellectual dishonesty, yet swayed by cowardice." (p.160) When Levin later offered to get Rosenblatt, who had not gotten tenure, "a permanent lectureship," the offer was rejected.]

The Personal As Political

The most important portions of Rosenblatt's _Coming Apart _ are not literary, but political. As the Vietnam War lengthened and students felt more and more personally threatened by the draft, protest actions became more and more desperate and faction fighting more intense. Student leaders of all the factions (Jared Israel; Jared Rossman--whose mantra 20 years later, "Take it easy, but take it - and leave it better than you found it," combined Woody Guthrie with the prophetic imperative; Mike Kazin, '70, son of writer Alfred Kazin and now Professor of History at American University; and Young People's Socialist League leaders Steven Kelman (whom I proposed to nominate for President of SDS), Benjamin Ross and David Guberman) were overwhelmingly Jewish.

In the fall of 1966, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was surrounded by Harvard students as his car tried to get away from Quincy House, where he had just given a speech. After he agreed to answer questions for five minutes, he was allowed to leave. Letters of apology to him were later signed by thousands.

Columbia University exploded in the spring of 1968. That fall, Harvard students impeded the movements of a recruiter for Dow Chemical, manufacturer of napalm, the infamous caustic defoliant used in Vietnam. On Election Day, thousands of draft-age students under the voting age of 21 marched to protest the War they were not permitted to vote on. On December 11, members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) staged a sit-in at a faculty meeting in the Music Building on the issue of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) on campus, which more and more students wanted abolished, as a gesture against the war.

Then on April 9, 1969 a large minority of SDS, against the wishes of the majority vote taken the night before, occupied the administration building, University Hall, evicting a few of the deans. [(The majority had voted "to take an action at an unspecified time, to be determined by the leadership." At least some of those who now acted apparently felt they had a mandate to do so; this was not brought out by Rosenblatt.)]

President Pusey ordered Harvard Yard locked, and in the middle of the night, without any audible, official warning, called in the police to evict the occupiers. Removing their badges, they did so with such violence and destructiveness that the great majority of the student body was radicalized and called for a strike that paralyzed the campus for ten days[, as issues of class struggle were debated from a multiplicity of angles. In the June 3, 1997 _Harvard Crimson_, Rosenblatt is quoted in a recent interview as saying: "The simmering feelings of the local police about Harvard should have been taken into account. For another 20 years, at least, this is going to rank as the major cataclysm in Harvard history.].

The Outraged Faculty

After the bust, the faculty met in outrage, but more at the students than at the administration. At least a few felt, though, that all had suffered enough. Music Professor Earl Kim [(see article on him in Aufbau, April 11, 1997)] moved for complete amnesty for the students [and proudly told his class later that he had gotten 12 votes, including fellow composed Del Tredici; biologists Mark Ptashne, Everett Mendelson, and Nobel prizewinner George Wald; and philosophy professor Hilary Putnam, who had been faculty advisor for a whole set of courses taught from a radical perspective, put together under the rubric of Social Relations 148 & 149].

Kim's proposal for amnesty (of which there is no mention by Rosenblatt, nor in any document he examined) was voted down. As the greatly respected economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who sat right behind him at the meeting, stood up to vote against the motion, he put his hand on Kim's shoulder, saying: "No radical idea is ever accepted to begin with." Instead, the faculty voted to set up a Committee of Fifteen representatives, including some students, who would determine punishment for those who had occupied University Hall.

The Lenient Liberal

Roger Rosenblatt was the most popular faculty member on the Committee, having earned a reputation for liberal leniency with such typical but priceless experiences as the time he caught Al Gore, '69, and his Boston University student girlfriend Tipper leaving the house long after "parietal" hours. The word "parietal" was indeed invented by Harvard, in 1837, according to the O.E.D. In 1969, a year before the dorms went co-ed, they were still in effect. "I saw the terror," Rosenblatt recalls, in Gore's "Boy Scout eyes, which might have read: 'There goes the presidency.' We passed each other quickly on the path. I greeted Al and Tipper: 'Good evening, boys.'"

The abolition of parietal rules that autumn would contribute to an easing of tensions, re-channeling of energies, and enhancement of respect on campus, second only to the abolition of the draft and the lowering of the voting age a few years later, which would at last restore relative calm. The nationwide student strike of 1970, which spread like wildfire after the shooting deaths of students at Kent State and Jackson State protesting the invasion of Cambodia, and the shout-down demonstrations of 1971 could be viewed with hindsight, at Harvard at least, as fading aftershocks of the 1969 quake brought on by the revolt of the last disenfranchised generation that could be forced to fight in a war we had been deemed too young to be allowed to vote for or against.

In _Coming Apart _ Rosenblatt carefully describes how he skillfully arranged to have the worst offenders (who had actually shoved the deans out the door) dealt with first, so that every punishment for everyone else would be successively milder. Only a handful were expelled, none irrevocably. Some, like grad student Carl Offner, eventually went back and got a Ph.D. (He also became president of a small suburban synagogue outside Boston.) Others like Nate Goldshlag, who coordinated the magnificent 20th anniversary strike reunion, did not. His picture, but not his name, is in Rosenblatt's book. [His legacy: "Now if our children... can just get it together to build more movements in the 1990s for political and social justice. Who knows--the '30s, the '60s, now the '90s?"] Aftermath

Announcement of the committee's determinations was deliberately deferred until close to graduation, by which time three-fourths of the undergraduates had left for the summer. The decisions were not very popular, and neither was Rosenblatt, any more. The faculty voted to create a black studies department. But tenure in it would be partly determined by students, which outraged many who really cared about the subject, especially Rosenblatt, who had pioneered with a course (and later a book) on black fiction.

President Pusey took early retirement, in 1971, and was succeeded by Law School Dean Derek Bok, who ruled with a firm hand but conscientiously held many discussion meetings with student groups, as Pusey had not. (Pusey had labeled radical students "Walter Mittys of the left." (p.33) Dean Robert B. Watson had been even more offensive, calling them "sons of active Communists," for which he later apologized. The SDS publication _The Old Mole_ parodied him, saying the Harvard Corporation was run by "sons of active capitalists.") Rosenblatt, Harvard's youngest house master and the youngest person on the short list to succeed Pusey as Harvard's (first Jewish) president, did not get tenure. (Bok's successor, Neil Rudenstein, is Jewish.)

Rosenblatt wrote the compassionate book _Children of War_, which has been translated into 7 languages. He also garnered 2 Polk Awards and an Emmy for reports on Russia and Rwanda.

His Coming Apart contributes valuable research and insights, but hardly tells the whole story. [For a brief but effective stab at "seeing the strike as the strikers saw it," read the one-page "History as You Like It" by Katha Pollitt in the May 12, 1997 _Nation_.] The dialog continues, as does the debate over the conflicting rights of free speech, freedom of movement, and freedom to perform the duties of one's office, even when some find others' actions morally indefensible.

Roger Rosenblatt: "Coming Apart: A Memoir of the Harvard Wars of 1969." Little, Brown and Company, 1997: Hardcover, 228 pages. ISBN 0-316-75726-8. [--Leonard Lehrman (Harvard College Class of 1971)]



Jewish Radicals at Harvard [:Revolutionary Vanguard or Nazi-Like Thugs? A Review/Interview/Memoir in 3 parts]
Draft#7 (long version)
Copyright by Leonard Lehrman
May 16-28, 1997
[total: 5241 words] [Part I 1604 words]

In the late 1960s, universities all over America were undergoing crises as students, frustrated by the Vietnam War and threatened by the draft, turned on intransigent administrations in hopes of changing the world, or at least making a symbolic gesture in their own immediate surroundings, such as getting universities to stop hosting the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). It was a rare time in American history, as Edward O'Malley has pointed out, when the politics and passions of altruism and self-interest coincided, and the result was an explosion of radical energies.

The occupation by radical students (led largely by Jews) of University Hall at Harvard on April 9, 1969, followed by a middle-of-the-night police bust and a university-wide 10-day strike, eventually led to the banishment of ROTC from the campus, the establishment of a black studies program, and a new, more responsive administration. And eventually, too, the Vietnam War ended as well. The morality of the students' actions is, however, still being debated.

The dust-jacket of his book _Life Itself: Abortion in the American Mind_ (Random House, 1992) calls author Roger Rosenblatt "America's preeminent commentator on social and moral issues." His latest book, for Little, Brown (1997), is called _Coming Apart_, subtitled "A Memoir of the Harvard Wars of 1969." It is the first indexed work on the subject since _Harvard: Through change and through storm_ by E.J. Kahn, Jr.', '37, published by W.W. Norton nearly 28 years ago, and is a good deal more vivid, up close, and personal.

_Coming Apart_ belongs on the shelf next to _Push Comes to Shove: The Escalation of Student Protest_ (Houghton, Mifflin, 1970) by Steven Kelman, '70 (now Harvard Professor of Government), which has more political analysis but less perspective; _The Right to Say "WE": The Adventures of a Young Englishman at Harvard and in the Youth Movement_(Praeger, 1970) by Richard Zorza, '72, featuring a chapter on "The Politics of Ecstasy"; and the detailed documentation of _The Twentieth Reunion of the Harvard-Radcliffe Strike, April 7-8, 1989_ (published in 1989 by the Harvard-Radcliffe Strike Committee, with an introduction by Nate Goldshlag, '71). Like the Kelman book, Rosenblatt's is a fascinating, even if sometimes narrowly subjective, portrait of people in academia, mostly Jews, mostly men, coming to terms with moral and political crises, serving up anecdotes and analogies, especially with Germany, and trying to learn from the experience.

Unlike many of Rosenblatt's previous books, from his 1975 study of _Black Fiction_ to _Life Itself_, it contains no bibliography or list of works cited. In a telephone interview with this writer, he admitted having consulted the Kelman work, but most of what he has to say is based on his own memories, minutes, and contemporaneous pamphlets and journalistic accounts in the_Old Mole_, _Harvard Crimson_, and _Harvard Independent_.

Why Now?

Why had he chosen to write this book now? Was it because, having not gotten tenure at Harvard and left to pursue a career first at the National Endowment for the Humanities, then at _Time_, _Life_, _The Washington Post_, _The New Republic_, and The (MacNeil/)Lehrer News Hour, he had recently accepted a post in academia again, as Professor of English at Long Island University in Southampton? No, he said. It was because, after completing the prologue to _Clinton: Portrait of Victory_ (Warner, 1993), he had decided that his attitude towards those now running the country - the baby-boomer generation - was "so dim"; and he felt he could trace back "the roots of that attitude" to a time when he had discovered that he "didn't like students except as individuals." In contrast to the attitudes of those days, he told Jack Sirica of _Newsday_ (May 21, 1997, pp. B3 & B11), students today "do not feel that the world was made for their entrance." One wonders if this reflects a change in generations or locations, i.e. from Harvard to LIU-Southampton. His greatest wrath in _Coming Apart_, is reserved, however, for Harvard faculty members, and the hypocrisy he observed and felt himself being coerced into going along with.

Knowing him as well as I had, having seen him in the Dunster House Dining Hall nearly every day for three years, as well as in an occasional private conference (as Acting Master of Dunster House it was he who signed my diploma, and when asked last week if he remembered me exclaimed "I haven't lost ALL my marbles - I still remember what you look like!"), I found his book impossible to put down, but also maddening, not only in what it left out, but also in a few inaccuracies and distortions that could have been checked but were not, and which I feel compelled to correct from firsthand knowledge.

The best way to do this would seem to be chronological, telling the story as I remember it, relating it to the remembrances of Kelman, Rosenblatt, and two Cambridge residents I interviewed for this article, Earl Kim and Elena (Mrs. Harry) Levin.

Steve Kelman

In 1960 I began taking private composition lessons in Great Neck with a composer who had been active politically until the Cold War, Elie Siegmeister. On his recommendation I also studied piano privately, also in Great Neck, with Olga Heifetz, the first wife of George Szell, widow of violinist Joseph Wolfsthal, and then the wife of cellist Benar Heifetz (of the Albeneri Trio). Through Mrs. Heifetz I met a girl living across the street from her, 11 months older than I, who became my partner in a two-piano class, as well as my date at dozens of concerts. It was at her senior prom, in 1966, that I met her classmate at Great Neck South Senior High School, Steven Kelman, the child of an immigrant German Jew active in the Anti-Defamation League. Steve had already made a name for himself as a leader of the Young People's Socialist League, friend of Michael Harrington (whose _The Other America_ had been credited with having inspired the War on Poverty), and feature writer for _The New York Times Magazine_. Kelman and I would argue about the practicality of calling oneself a socialist, as well as the meaning of the terms "democratic" and "totalitarian," for years to he and my date (top boy and girl in their class, respectively) entered and graduated from Harvard in the Class of 1970.

I followed a year later. Technically I too was Class of 1970, having taken enough Advanced Placement credits (in French, English, and Math) to qualify for sophomore standing, and could theoretically have graduated in three years - though four were just fine. I was exempted from Physical Education, though not, unfortunately, from freshman English: "Expository Writing." That course was taught mostly by pompous, displaced-minded graduate students: Harvard was one of the few places on earth where undergrads tended to look down on graduate students, most of whom had applied to but not been accepted by the College. The head of the program was a junior faculty member less than a decade older than we, named Roger Rosenblatt. The best place to learn to write, I quickly discovered, was not in the classroom but in "comping" for - i.e. submitting articles for possible publication (of which three of mine did appear in) - the _Crimson_.

Roger Rosenblatt

Rosenblatt was a Jew from Gramercy Park, a graduate of NYU in the Bronx, who entered Harvard as a graduate student in 1962. Though bar mitzvahed in an Orthodox shul (more out of rebellion at his parents' secularism than anything else), in 1963 he married Ginny, an Episcopalian, in a Unitarian Church, which in our interview he called "the compromise house of worship so that the families would not have open warfare in the streets."

He still considers himself "a political Jew," meaning one who feels personally offended at any ethnic slurs or attacks on Israel. Their three children "all believe in God": Carl was Harvard '88; Amy is now at NYU Medical School; John, named after his father's mentor in the English Department, John Kelleher, will be entering Brown in the fall.

"The first summer of our marriage and the two years following" he describes (on p.72) as a "kind of idyll." He was an assimilated Jew, accepted by others, often of similar background. After a year doing his Ph.D. thesis on a Fulbright in Ireland (an expert in such matters, he is probably to thank more than I knew at the time for my Fulbright to France six years later), he returned to Cambridge, house-sat for a year, and then applied for the vacant job of Senior Tutor in Dunster House, but was warned by his predecessor "that getting the appointment would be an uphill fight because I was a Jew." The problem was the Master of Dunster, a biologist named Alwin Pappenheimer, "a terrifying type," who despite his own Jewish ancestry was "zealous in trying not to be Jewish," wanting to be thought of as New England WASP.

I remember one of the most embarrassing events of my life, my first time away from home over the New Year's holidays, 1969-70: Mr. & Mrs. Papp (as Pappenheimer liked to be called) invited me and others staying in the House to supper in their residence on December 25, as the dining halls were closed. It turned out to be an elaborate Christmas Dinner with gifts from and for everyone present, and I had come totally unprepared and unable to reciprocate. There was no such elaborate ceremony once Rosenblatt became Master two years later, he assures me.

Part II Harry Levin [1361 words]
The First Jew in the Harvard English Department

Another assimilated Jew Roger Rosenblatt worked with, actually the first Jew to receive tenure in Harvard's English Department, was Harry Levin (pronounced luh-VINN), whose father had been Jewish, but whose mother was not, and who had married a Russian Orthodox writer named Elena, who translated Trotsky. Elena, now 84, remembers having met Harry (1912-1994) in 1937, on the same evening that she met the poet Charles Olson (1910-1970), and that she "fell for" Olson, but that he then disappeared, and two years later she married Harry. She also remembers Harry considering resigning his junior faculty post in despair at ever getting tenure, but that at that very moment Olson reappeared and encouraged him, and he was granted tenure by a unanimous vote.

Olson or Berryman?

In 1966 Olson gave a reading of his poetry at Berkeley, which was recorded, and Elena remembers him giving one at Boylston Hall at Harvard about three years later. She believes that Rosenblatt has confused what happened at that reading with an incident which he maintains involved the poet John Berryman. She claims the Berryman incident never happened.

According to Rosenblatt (_Coming Apart_, p.75), Berryman, disturbed by a lack of audience laughter at what he considered funny in his own poetry, which he was reading at Boylston Hall, picked on the "ramrod straight" Levin and shouted: "You bug me, Harry!" Partially deaf in one ear, Levin was, according to Rosenblatt, aided by his wife, who "leaned over and spoke loudly" to him: "'He says you bug him.'" They then both left.

In our interview, Rosenblatt stated that this was "a well-known story," and cited English Department colleagues as the source for this bumbling depiction of Levin. Since Elena was actually part of the event, however, she ought to know how much of it was legend and what really happened.

Elena Levin's Version

In Elena's version, Olson was confused by the papers he had piled up around him; Harry had sat in the front row, she many rows back (they had arrived separately); and the poet had in a moment of panic asked Levin if he would please excuse himself, which he did. Elena met Harry at his office, and they deliberated whether to go to the reception, which they did, at which Olson then apologized profusely.

(I don't mean to put Rosenblatt down, or use him as a strawman to defend an opposing thesis, as some have done. Levin once criticized me (correctly) for doing that in a paper in which I took on Gerhard Nellhaus. I learned later that the early Brecht translator and German refugee, who had written his thesis at Harvard, had at one time dated my mother!)

This is not the first time that Levin, a towering literary critic in Shakespearean, Joycean, and many other fields of scholarship, has been maligned literarily. In 1955 May Sarton published her roman a clef, _Faithful Are the Wounds_, based more than loosely on the life and death by suicide of the radical anti-anti-Communist English Professor F.O. Matthiessen (called Edward Cavan in the novel), and on the liberal physics professor Wendell H. Furry (Damon Phillips in the novel) who was pilloried by investigating committees demanding names of Communist sympathizers.

The Chairman of the English Department is called Ivan Goldberg. The only Jew in the department, he has a wife named Angela and a daughter who is ill (which Harry's and Elena's only child was, at the time - she has since recovered from what had been thought to be incurable cancer). His students characterize him as "a cold fish" (p. 156).

Although Sarton later denied, in a letter to Levin which is in Houghton Library, that her character was in fact based on Levin, it has been widely assumed that he was. In one of the most moving scenes of the novel, Cavan challenges Goldberg to take on the Red-baiters rather than "do what the German professors did--wash [their] hands of any responsibility, let the Nazis take over, and then wake up in a concentration camp." Goldberg responds with dignity: "I realize, Edward, that these emotional appeals--what is supposed to happen to a Jew at the mention of the word concentration camp--are usually effective." (pp.108-9)

Superiority or Snobbiness?

Rosenblatt also accords Levin dignity, but maligns him nonetheless as "stuffy and manipulative" (p.119), attributing his "aristocratic bearing" as "due equally to genuine intellectual superiority" and "genuine intellectual snobbiness." (p.75) One incident involving Levin, which the author insists shows the hypocrisy of academia, actually points up his own small-mindedness:

In the fall of 1969, Rosenblatt had his first scholarly article accepted for publication. It concerned a subject on which Levin had also written an article, which Rosenblatt had not read. Believing, correctly, that every scholar should make an effort to cover his subject thoroughly, Levin had Department Chairman Morton Bloomfield (who died in 1993) call the Levin article to Rosenblatt's attention so he could read and cite it in his own. Rosenblatt felt offended, but did as he was expected to do, "stunned by this intellectual dishonesty, yet swayed by cowardice." (p.160) When Levin later offered to get Rosenblatt, who had not gotten tenure, "a permanent lectureship," the offer was rejected. (p.225)

Levin in My Own Experience

My own experience with Levin was entirely different from Rosenblatt's. After hearing him lecture on John Gay's _Beggar's Opera_ and the Brecht-Weill _Threepenny Opera_ in his course, Comedy on the Stage, I proposed writing a paper comparing the Brecht work to _The Cradle Will Rock_ by Brecht translator Marc Blitzstein. (The title of my paper: "The Threepenny Cradle.") Levin's enthusiasm was palpable: he had known Blitzstein well (had even advised him on his magnum opus, the still-unfinished _Sacco and Vanzetti_, I learned later), and had attended the Boston premiere of _Cradle_, conducted by none other than Leonard Bernstein.

With the further encouragement and the loan of a _Cradle_ score from Elie Siegmeister, I began a career in Blitzstein/Bernsteiniana that is still unabating. (Michael Barrett, currently director of the Tisch Center at the 92nd Street Y, began his career similarly, in the 1980s, conducting _Cradle_ in New York, then working with Bernstein at Tanglewood.)

Levin became a patron of my November 1969 _Cradle_ production at Harvard's Loeb Experimental Theater (Dunster House had turned it down in favor of Chris Durang's Mary Magdalene satire, which Rosenblatt then found himself defending against charges of blasphemy), as well as a Bernstein/Blitzstein triple bill at Lowell House (which Bernstein attended, and where Levin first proposed that he become Norton Lecturer at Harvard), and the U.S. premiere of Brecht's _Days of the Commune_ at Sanders Theater, which he made possible by signing on as my Independent Study advisor. (Years later he vividly recalled the production, though mistakenly thought it had been done by Peter Sellars - for which he quickly apologized when corrected!)

Throughout the period of turbulence at Harvard, he was a dignified observer with deep understanding of both sides. He explicitly condoned those who felt they needed to express solidarity by not attending his class during the strike; but he also upheld the rights of those who wanted to go to class, and gave his lecture for them. "Sitting on the grass in his dark-blue pinstripe three-piece suit, with his students sitting before him," even to Rosenblatt, "Harry looked noble." (p.119) His open, inquiring mind inspired countless students to go into Comparative Literature, even if only as a minor field, as I did at Cornell, where I earned my doctorate in music in 1977.

When Harry died the year before my 25th Harvard reunion, I offered to write a piece in his memory to be played at the traditional Boston Pops concert for the 25th reunion class. The class accepted it, but the Pops unfortunately balked at the music's too serious character, and arbitrarily refused to consider any of a number of possible alternative works. So instead I wrote and performed at Sanders Theater a sardonic tribute to the most famous Harvard man of the moment, Ted Kaczynski, '62.

Part III
The Personal As Political (2276 words)

The most important portions of Roger Rosenblatt's _Coming Apart_ (1997) and Steven Kelman's _Push Comes to Shove_ (1970) are not literary, but political. As the Vietnam War lengthened and students felt more and more personally threatened by the draft, protest actions became more and more desperate and faction fighting more intense. Student leaders of all the factions (Jared Israel, '67; Jared Rossman, '70 (whose mantra, "Take it easy, but take it - and leave it better than you found it," combined Woody Guthrie with the prophetic imperative); Mike Kazin, '70, son of writer Alfred Kazin and now Professor of History at American University; and Kelman's closest lieutenants Benjamin Ross and David Guberman, both '71) were overwhelmingly Jewish.

In the fall of 1966, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was surrounded by Harvard students as his car tried to get away from Quincy House, where he had just given a speech. After he agreed to answer questions for five minutes, he was allowed to leave. Letters of apology to him were later signed by thousands.

Columbia exploded in the spring of 1968. That fall, Harvard students impeded the movements of a recruiter for Dow Chemical, manufacturer of napalm, used in Vietnam. On Election Day, thousands of draft-age students under the voting age of 21 marched to protest the War they were not permitted to vote on. On December 11, members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) staged a sit-in at a faculty meeting in the Music Building on the issue of ROTC, which more and more students wanted abolished, as a gesture against the war.

Then on April 9 a large minority of SDS, against the wishes of the majority vote taken the night before, occupied the administration building, University Hall, evicting a few of the deans. (The majority had voted "to take an action at an unspecified time, to be determined by the leadership." At least some of those who now acted apparently felt they had a mandate to do so; this was brought out by neither Kelman nor Rosenblatt.)

President Pusey ordered Harvard Yard locked, and in the middle of the night, without any audible, official warning, called in the police to evict the occupiers. Removing their badges, they did so with such violence and destructiveness that the great majority of the student body was radicalized and called for a strike that paralyzed the campus for ten days.

Announcing the Bust

I had seen the police massing at the Cambridge Fire Department outside the Yard and had rushed to the radio station WHRB, of which I was a member, demanding to be put on the air, which I was, despite having been banned since January for having re-interpreted a UPI bulletin about the universities in Spain having been closed due to student riots. (I said they had been closed due to the fascist government, which was of course true, but for that was temporarily banned from the air.) At 3:23 a.m. April 10, 1969 I told what I had just seen, and that the police's imminent arrival could be expected. I then climbed my way back over the fence into the sealed Yard. The news spread and fire alarms were set off to wake everybody up. Those who watched the ensuing brutality, lit by flood lights and an eerie sunrise, began chanting "The whole world is watching! The whole world is watching!" But the only thing that stopped any of the cops cold from chasing students into neighboring Weld Hall was my shouting: "Don't go in there! The radio's in there!" WHRB had set up a remote and was broadcasting live, in segments which later became an LP entitled "Confrontation at Harvard."

Analogies with Germany

Kelman agonizes (p.2) that "Harvard students were not immune to the same types of emotions which made the Nazi rise to power possible." He cites the contemporaneous German counterpart of the American SDS (the Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund) as having the same slogan in 1969 as the Nazis in 1933: "The joy in destruction is a creative joy." (p.105) A James Glassman piece in the _Crimson_ Kelman characterizes as "Nazi-mentality" (p.199), and compares the mass meetings during the strike to the "Nuremburg rallies." ([sic] p.273)

Where did all these analogies to the Nazis come from? Possibly, at least in part, from Kelman's father's own German-Jewish refugee experience. In Steve Kelman's mind, SDS represented the Hitler-Stalin pact among "totalitarians." At an SDS meeting he had urged: "'We have no right, as a minority, to impose our views upon the majority, only to try to become the majority. What would you have thought if the German- American Bund sat in to prevent collection of money to help England in 1940?... Let's get a majority against the war and then see what happens.' The voice shouted loud and clear from the back, 'NOTHING!!'" (p.129) (I had offered to nominate him for President of SDS (pp. 112-3) if only it would get him to stop indiscriminately labeling students "Communists," and other Red-baiting. He could not see the incongruity of citing Whittaker Chambers as an enemy (p.116) and his professional anti-Communist allies Sidney Hook and Irving Howe as models to be emulated.)

They also came no doubt from a course Kelman was then taking in modern German history. "Ironically, the lecture scheduled for the morning of the police bust was on the aborted revolution of 1919." (p.157) To him the occupation and the strike that followed were nothing more than what Fritz Stern described in _The Politics of Cultural Despair_: "the triumph of irresponsibility." (Kelman, pp.159-161)

But Kelman was not alone in his assessment. Social Studies Professor Martin Peretz, descendant of the great Yiddish writer I.L. Peretz and husband of the heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune (subsequently publisher of _The New Republic_), had delivered a stinging indictment of moderates in his eulogy to Martin Luther King just one year before. He was in the Yard watching the occupation of University Hall. I approached him and asked him what he thought about it. "It's terrible," he replied. "But what about the idea of the revolutionary vanguard?" I asked, ambivalently. "They're just thugs," he spat out. "Just like the Nazis." Rosenblatt quotes Peretz as saying he saw this as the end of "civility" and "reflexive respect" for teachers. "I also think," Peretz told him, "that the sight of the takeover was the beginning of my turn politically, from left to right." (p.19)

The Outraged Faculty

After the bust, the faculty met in outrage, but more at the students than at the administration. At least a few felt, though, that all had suffered enough. Music Professor Earl Kim moved for complete amnesty for the students, and proudly told his class later that he had gotten 12 votes, including fellow composer David Del Tredici; biologists Mark Ptashne, Everett Mendelson, and Nobel prizewinner George Wald; and of course philosophy professor Hilary Putnam, who had been faculty advisor for a whole set of courses put together under the rubric of Social Relations 148 & 149. They included a fascinating section on Politics and Literature, from Marx & Engels to Lenin to Mao, with Trotsky and many black and revolutionary authors in between.

That course, along with Levin's, and a couple of special sections on Brecht that formed spontaneously as part of "Harvard New College" during the strike when official classes were cancelled, were among the most stimulating I attended at Harvard. They inspired me to learn German over the summer, and then to translate & adapt the Brecht-Eisler _Days of the Commune_, which I then co-produced and directed at Sanders Theater, the Yale Drama Festival, and over WGBH radio.

A branch of SDS co-sponsored the production. In one of the most difficult decisions of my life, I refused to void that co-sponsorship, even when the ambitious student director from Wellesley threatened to leave unless I did. The show went on; I directed it myself, with Harry Levin signing on as supervisor for my Independent Study, so that I would have time to do so. I also played Brecht in a February '71 re-enactment of his House Un-American Activities Committee appearance. (The columnist E.J. Dionne, '73, who played a Congressman in that re-enactment, sent me a one-word telegram for the opening of _Commune_: "SOLIDARITY")

Kim's proposal for amnesty (of which there is no mention by Rosenblatt, nor in any document he examined) was voted down. As John Kenneth Galbraith, who sat right behind him at the meeting, stood up to vote against the motion, he put his hand on Kim's shoulder, saying: "No radical idea is ever accepted to begin with." Instead, the faculty voted to set up a Committee of Fifteen representatives, including some students, who would determine punishment for those who had occupied University Hall.

The Lenient Liberal

Roger Rosenblatt was the most popular faculty member on the Committee, having earned a reputation for liberal leniency with such typical but priceless experiences as the time he caught Al Gore, '69, and his Boston University student girlfriend Tipper leaving the house long after "parietal" hours. The word was indeed invented by Harvard, according to the O.E.D., in 1837. In 1969, a year before the dorms went co-ed, they were still in effect. "I saw the terror," Rosenblatt recalls, in Gore's "Boy Scout eyes, which might have read: 'There goes the presidency.' We passed each other quickly on the path. I greeted Al and Tipper: 'Good evening, boys.'" (p.91)

The abolition of parietal rules that autumn would contribute to an easing of tensions, rechanneling of energies, and enhancement of respect on campus, second only to the abolition of the draft and the lowering of the voting age a few years later, which would at last restore relative calm. The nationwide student strike of 1970, which spread like wildfire after the shooting deaths of students at Kent State and Jackson State protesting the invasion of Cambodia, and the shout-down demonstrations of 1971 could be viewed with hindsight, at Harvard at least, as fading aftershocks of the 1969 quake brought on by the revolt of the last disenfranchised generation that could be forced to fight in a war we had been deemed too young to be allowed to vote for or against.

In _Coming Apart_ Rosenblatt carefully describes how he skillfully arranged to have the worst offenders (who had actually shoved the deans out the door) dealt with first, so that every punishment for everyone else would be successively milder. Only a handful were expelled, none irrevocably. Some, like grad student Carl Offner, eventually went back and got a Ph.D. (In 1990 the synagogue of which he became president, Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, Mass. hosted a performance of my _E.G.: A Musical Portrait of Emma Goldman_, as did several dozen other places, including Harvard, which was, however, the only one that did not offer an honorarium.) Others like Nate Goldshlag, who coordinated the magnificent 20th anniversary strike reunion, did not. His picture, but not his name, is in Rosenblatt's book. His legacy: "Now if our children... can just get it together to build more movements in the 1990s for political and social justice. Who knows--the '30s, the '60s, now the '90s?" (It may be noted in passing that Katha Pollitt's father, David Guberman's father, and my father had all been active at Harvard in the late 1930s.)

Aftermath

Announcement of the committee's determinations was carefully deferred until close to graduation, by which time three-fourths of the undergraduates had left for the summer. The decisions were not very popular, and neither was Rosenblatt, any more. The faculty voted to create a black studies department. But tenure would be partly determined by students, which outraged many who really cared about the subject, especially Rosenblatt, who had pioneered with a course (and later a book) on black fiction.

President Pusey took early retirement, in 1971, and was succeeded by Law School Dean Derek Bok, who ruled with a firm hand but conscientiously held many discussion meetings with student groups, as Pusey had not. (Pusey had labeled radical students "Walter Mittys of the left." (p.33) Dean Robert B. Watson had been even more offensive, calling them "sons of active Communists," for which he later apologized (p.10). SDS's _The Old Mole_ parodied him, saying the Harvard Corporation was run by "sons of active capitalists.") Rosenblatt, Harvard's youngest house master and the youngest person on the short list to succeed Pusey as Harvard's (first Jewish) president, did not get tenure. (Bok's successor, Neil Rudenstein, is Jewish.)

Kelman went to Prague, where in the summer of 1969 he was beaten by police for marching in a protest parade commemorating the spring of 1968. He now teaches at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Rosenblatt wrote the compassionate book _Children of War_, which has been translated into seven languages. He also garnered two Polk Awards and an Emmy for reports on Russia and Rwanda.

Both of them contributed valuable research and insights. But neither told the whole story. For a brief but effective stab at "seeing the strike as the strikers saw it," read the one-page "History as You Like It" by Katha Pollitt, '71, in the May 12 _Nation._ The dialog continues, as does the debate over the conflicting rights of free speech, freedom of movement, and freedom to perform the duties of one's office, even when some find others' actions morally indefensible. #



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