Faculty denounces arrests
By Niraj S. Desai
The faculty at its Wednesday meeting recommended that those arrested at pro-divestment rallies on April 6 and 9 not be prosecuted and that any resulting criminal records be expunged.
In a motion passed 25-13, faculty members also called on the administration to reimburse arrested students for court costs and legal expenses.
Supporters of the motion called the 32 arrests at the demonstrations sponsored by the Coalition Against Apartheid unnecessary. They argued that, rather than using police power to deal with the protests, the administration ought to have tried to begin a dialogue with the students.
Several also believed that faculty members should have had a greater opportunity to mediate between demonstrators and the administration.
Assistant Professor John Parsons said he attended a demonstration near the president's house on April 9 in hopes of observing and participating in a discussion. But he found that his presence, and the presence of other faculty members, was irrelevant. The actions of the administration and police "prevented the opportunity for any dialogue," Parsons said.
President Paul E. Gray '54 responded that he was willing to talk with students, but that he would not do so in the context of a demonstration. From his experience with previous protests, he said he had decided long ago that "I was not going to participate in discussions that had to be conducted through a bullhorn."
Critics of the arrests also sought to have the faculty urge the administration to create <>
a Standing Advisory Panel on Demonstrations, composed of administration, faculty and students. The panel would participate in setting policies regarding demonstrations, be consulted in times of crisis, and monitor police action and other participants' involvement in major political demonstrations on campus.
A vote on the motion calling for the advisory panel was postponed until the May faculty meeting in order to allow for greater discussion.
Gray, in recounting the events of the past two weeks, blamed Coalition Against Apartheid members for adopting a confrontational stance.
Those who believe MIT should divest its holdings in companies doing business in South Africa have a right to speak out, Gray said. But, after a decision has been made, to continue to object in the ways the CAA has is unacceptable, he continued.
There is a "line where disagreement with a decision becomes coercion. . . . There is a big difference between being heard and having one's way," Gray said.
He cited the actions of CAA members at the April 6 and 9 rallies as well as one during the March 2 Corporation meeting as examples of behavior aimed at provoking a confrontation.
Parsons disputed Gray's assertion that the students initiated the confrontation. The administration had decided well before April 6 not to allow students to erect a pro-divestment shanty on the Student Center lawn. Once that decision was made, a confrontation was inevitable, he said.
Professor Jonathan A. King also attacked the idea that the students' actions constituted coercion. He argued that the administration was merely subject to "aggressive speech" -- speech that ought to be protected.
Professor Ruth Perry said the only coercion she witnessed at the demonstrations was on the part of the Campus Police. "Force ought to be the last resort," she said.
Graduate Student Council President Michael J. Warwick G read a resolution passed by the GSC on Tuesday decrying the "unilateral, autocratic decision to arrest the CAA protesters" and the "harsh and violent actions enacted on MIT students by the campus police."
Gray said he would not act to have charges against those arrested dismissed.
Four years ago when eight students were arrested by Campus Police for building a shanty on Kresge Oval, MIT sought to have the charges dismissed. Gray noted that the judge in the case refused, saying that it would hurt the integrity of the criminal justice system if a party could invoke the judicial process -- by ordering arrests -- and then refuse to accept the result -- by asking for dismissal.
Having ordered the arrests, MIT has a responsibility to follow through, Gray said. He argued that, in the normal court process, those arrested would be offered the opportunity to have the charges dropped in exchange for community service or payment of fines.
Parsons suggested that what the judge was saying four years ago was that MIT invoked the judicial process poorly -- that <>
it should not have involved the court system in the case in the first place. He argued that MIT had again ordered unnecessary arrests and ought to correct its mistake by moving for dismissal of charges.
Calendar changes approved
Also at Wednesday's faculty meeting, the faculty voted 41-6 to approve a motion proposed at last month's meeting to extend the final examination period of both terms to five days.
The motion was made in response to the marked increase in the number of finals given each term. Students presently have little breathing space between finals and many find that the times of their exams conflict, Professor William M. Siebert '46, one of the motion's backers, argued. By spreading out exams among more days, these problems will be partly alleviated, he said.
Undergraduate Association Vice President Colleen M. Schwingel '92 spoke against the motion, which would provide for the additional spring term exam days by eliminating the two-day vacation following Independent Activities Period and reducing the President's Day vacation to one day.
The faculty heard a motion that would provide for membership on the MIT faculty of the athletic faculty in special, new categories: assistant professor/coach, associate professor/coach, and associate professor/senior coach. The motion is a prelude to eliminating tenured positions in the department and instituting a new review process.
The motion will be voted on at next month's faculty meeting.
The Committee on Nominations made its report nominating professors for membership on 14 faculty committees. The report included the nomination of J. Kim Vandiver SM '75, professor of ocean engineering, to be the next chair of the faculty. If elected, Vandiver would be chair-elect during 1990-91 and would serve as chair during 1991-93.
Positions will be voted on next month.
Associate Professor of Chemistry Stephen L. Buchwald was presented with the Harold E. Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award at Wednesday's meeting. The award honors junior faculty members for excellence in research and teaching.