One of the most interesting paradoxes in America today is that Harvard University, the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States, is now engaged in a serious debate about what a university should be, and whether it is measuring up.
Like the Roman Catholic Church and other ancient institutions, it is asking - still in private rather than in public - whether its past assumptions about faculty, authority, admissions, courses of study, are really relevant to the problems of the 1990’s.
『Should Harvard or any other university be an intellectual sanctuary, apart from the political and social revolution of the age, or should it be a laboratory for experimentation with these political and social revolutions; or even an engine of the revolution? 』①This is what is being discussed privately in the big clapboard houses of faculty members around the Harvard Yard.
The issue was defined by Waiter Lippmann, a distinguished Harvard graduate, several years ago. “If the universities are to do their work,” he said, “they must be independent and they must be disinterested… They are places to which men can turn for judgements which are unbiased by partisanship and special interest. 『Obviously, the moment the universities fall under political control, or under the control of private interests, or the moment they themselves take a hand in politics and the leadership of government, their value as independent and disinterested sources of judgement is impaired.”』②
This is part of the argument that is going on at Harvard today. Another part is the argument of the militant and even many moderate students: that a university is the keeper of our ideals and morals, and should not be “disinterested” but activist in bringing the nation’s ideals and actions together.
Harvard’s men of today seem more troubled and less sure about personal, political and academic purpose than they did at the beginning. 『They are not even clear about how they should debate and resolve their problems, but they are struggling with them privately, and how they come out is bound to influence American university and political life in the1990’s.』.