Harvard University, in 1959, refused more than $350,000 in money offered for student loans by the National Defense Education Act in the wake of the Soviets’ Sputnik shock because of the requirement that students submit to an oath and an affidavit of loyalty and noncommunist affiliation. Harvard President Nathan B. Pusey stated that the demand singled out college students as a group not worthy of the nation’s trust. It would have been possible to interpret the NDEA requirement differently, but Pusey was in harmony with the old academic and professional tradition which contended that higher education presupposes adherence to certain standards of personal integrity and academic accomplishment.

Since then, the old idea that education includes moral education has suffered some harsh blows. Recently, following an earlier decision by the Student Council, the Harvard Faculty Council recommended “that Harvard end its remaining connection with ROTC within two years unless the Defense Department drops its discriminatory policies against gay and lesbian applicants for cadets.” The Harvard faculty “downgraded” ROTC from a for-credit to an extracurricular program in 1969, but allowed students to participate in M.I.T.’s ROTC program (91 students in 1989-90). In April 1989, the Harvard Student Council first approved, then rejected proposals to bring the ROTC back to Harvard on a credit basis, the rejection coming in response to pressure from gay and lesbian activists; At that time. President Derek Bok replied to a query by this editor explaining that there was very little demand for ROTC at Harvard, but failing to answer the question of whether, and if yes, why, it was the university’s policy to demand that the Department of Defense change its stand on homosexuality.

In some areas, as pointed out by one of Harvard’s 1990 honorary degree recipients, David Riesman, “Derek Bok has been a man of stamina and seriousness who has stood firm against political pressure, as in appointing a dean of the Law School over the wishes of many in the Critical Legal Studies group.” There is no doubt that as president of the nation’s oldest university, Bok has been subjected to immense pressure to make symbolic concessions and statements of many kinds. But the university has totally caved in on the issues of sexual morality in general and of homosexuality in particular.

This leads to one of the curious moral anomalies of our day: we see on all sides a moralistic crusade against every aspect of cigarette manufacture and use, on the grounds that cigarette smoking creates real health risks, but this oral zeal for tobacco purity is accompanied by benign tolerance of and even support for sexual practices that promote ever graver risks. On May 18, Bok announced the university’s determination to divest itself of all stock in firms that manufacture tobacco products, “motivated,” in Bok’s words, “by a desire not to be associated as a shareholder with companies engaged in significant sales of products that create a substantial and unjustified risk of harm to other human beings.” Apparently, Harvard has no qualms about attempting to force the Defense Department to acquiesce in practices that create a “substantial and unjustified risk of harm to other human beings,” nor with being an advocate or patron, not merely a passive shareholder.

Although Harvard carries the word Veritas (truth) in its seal, ringed by the expression, Christo et ecclesiae (for Christ and the church), its current official posture not merely repudiates traditional Christian values but in effect acts as though they had never existed, and ignores the Veritas about the social, psychological, and medical consequences of practices such as those which biblical morality forbids. It is true that some traditionalist Christians, especially fundamentalists and some of the newer religious communities, have long condemned tobacco smoking, but most Christians and Jews have regarded it with tolerance if not outright affection, and the present antismoking movement has little to do with religion.

Harvard seems to be changing its motto from pro Christo et ecclesiae to contra Christum et ecclesiam. In view of the broadening, over three and a half centuries, of the school’s spiritual base to accept other religious traditions, one would hardly expect the Harvard of today to stand pro Christo. But contra Christum et ecclesiam? The university maintains a divinity school with a distinguished faculty as well as a university church and a Christian ministry. But these institutions touch only a minority of the university community, and the stand taken by the Harvard Faculty Council addresses not merely the whole university community but the federal government and the whole of society.

Although at today’s Harvard—as at many other centers of higher learning—tolerance is demanded for acts that traditional Jewish and Christian morality has consistently disapproved, no similar tolerance is shown to those who permit themselves to voice the old values of biblical religion. No tolerance was shown to Harvard undergraduate Sumner Anderson, ’92, president of the Republican Club, whose remarks, printed in the Harvard Crimson, caused outrage. Anderson’s assertion that homosexuality is a disease that is repulsive and “just totally abnormal,” allegedly generated general outrage on campus. His expressions, “repulsive” and “abnormal” are not stronger than the Hebrew word to’ebah, abomination (e.g., Leviticus 18:22).

The battle of words continues unabated. Unfortunately, those who take what we might consider the right position, namely that of upholding biblical norms, often do so in ways that are inappropriate to win sympathy. Thus the Harvard Lampoon, no standardbearer of biblical religion, intensified its traditional campaign of supposedly humorous vilification against the consistently pro “gay” Harvard Crimson, publishing not one but three parody issues last year, and in the process garnering complaints of being racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic.

Commenting on the Lampoon/ Crimson imbroglio. Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III said, “I thought it was very vulgar and in poor taste, and in my opinion, the people who prepared it don’t belong at a place like Harvard.” (But what about those who engage in to’ebah. Dean Epps? Do they belong there?) Epps was once unceremoniously thrown out of his University Hall office when it was “occupied” by protesting students in the course of the student revolts of the late 60’s, and perhaps he is now skittish about attempting to stand against popular student will.

Harvard was originally founded to train Congregational (Calvinist) ministers for the Massachusetts Bay colony, and until relatively recently Harvard College, at any rate, saw itself as acting in loco parentis towards its students, most of whom were minors before the age of majority was lowered from the traditional 21 to 18. Harvard’s Divinity School and Memorial Church still bear witness to the school’s origins, but its relationship to historic Christianity has become tenuous, to say the least. Pluralism at Harvard and other once-Christian institutions no longer means sympathetic acceptance of other great spiritual traditions, or even of the reverse spiritualities of agnosticism and atheism, but now requires the abolition of moral norms.

The exclusion of sexual morality from the range of moral issues that is important to the university says, in effect, that sexual conduct has no moral significance and that what used to be considered moral development has no place in intellectual development. It is possible, of course, to adopt the position that Christian morals have nothing to do with the academy or the life of the mind, but in order to do this one must repudiate not only Christian and Jewish morals but most of the moral and ethical reasoning of human societies through the centuries. It is sad that the nation’s oldest university is apparently not merely a willing but even an eager participant in this repudiation.