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TCU Magazine "Class Notes"  

Chancellor Moudy dodges draft dodger

David Harris to speak on campus? Now that just wouldn't do.

It was fall 1971, and the chaplain to TCU's Episcopal students had scored a coup, booking folk singer Joan Baez's husband, David Harris, for a speech in the Student Center Ballroom. Harris, who grew up wanting to be a military officer and attend West Point, had become instead an outspoken, articulate critic of the Vietnam War.

Oh, and he had just served 20 months in prison for following his beliefs. Dodging the draft, it was called.

Father Gayland Pool surely saw Harris as a provocative speaker -- the speech would be a valuable educational experience for students. But when he told Libby Proffer, director of student activities, that he had reserved the ballroom for a "somewhat controversial" speaker, she passed the word to Chancellor James M. Moudy, who was not pleased and nixed the engagement.

"TCU will not knowingly host a speaker who will counsel breaking the law," Dr. Moudy said on behalf of the university. "In the case of the proposal to host Mr. Harris, we have been unable to gain assurance that he will not so counsel, and this is the reason for the decision not to schedule him in university facilities."

The Student House of Representatives, ceremoniously aghast, unanimously adopted a resolution opposing Dr. Moudy's decision. The ACLU circulated a like-minded petition, as did English professor Ann Gossman. The student body even voted in a referendum, 994 to 171, that Harris should be allowed to appear.

A week before the speech was scheduled, the administration relented. Too late. Harris' parole board stipulated that major speaking engagements be cleared 30 days prior. So he was a special guest at a dinner in Father Pool's home. A handful of students and faculty were able to hear Harris' philosophy on life and, of course, the draft.