Charlie was trained in the Classics and psychoanalysis. Without pretense and with great care, he could put any situation involving a student in its proper mythic and analytic contexts. His greatest value to me and others in the College administration was not for the good he did students--and there are countless students he helped--but in helping us understand what might lie behind some destructive or aberrant behavior, and therefore tailor the most constructive, educational response, not based on any simple this-act-gets-that-penalty rulebook He could be gentle and he could be tough; he could explain the context of acts but he acknowledged evil when he saw it.
At Charlie's inspiration, there was a Committee on Student Research Participation, independent of the usual IRBs that approve research on human subjects; its sole purpose was to protect members of the Harvard community against the scads of researchers (including Harvard students) who would like to say something "scientific" about Harvard students. It was typical of Charlie to be protective of students and the institution and cautious about the motives of those who wanted to study them. I dug out a typical set of directives Charlie (on behalf of the CSRP) sent back to one researcher:
- Remove from the survey Questions #2 (race/ethnicity) and #10 (family income). Harvard's policy disallows the first as potentially tendentious (no reason to believe this simplistic classification tells you anything useful about your subjects) and not apparently relevant information, while the second could be regarded as intrusive into a student's privacy. The remainder of the survey seems unobjectionable.
- Despite the extensive material you sent us, you do not make clear your study's hypotheses or objectives.
- Your methodology seems problematic, in that you aim to characterize a subculture (athletes) without also surveying the majority culture for normalization. You cannot therefore distinguish sample-specific findings from population trends.
- We discourage your performing simplistic comparisons of Michigan and Harvard, if you were so inclined. The environments for student athletes, and the significance and organization of athletics at the two colleges, are so disparate as to discourage simple conclusions, certainly from as limited an instrument as a self-report survey.
All of that was hard work, work that required experience, broad knowledge, precedents and pitfalls. For all that I was grateful. Eventually one too many professors got annoyed about the extra layer of approvals they had to get to study Harvard students (as opposed, say, to BU or MIT students); some higher authority got a call, and the CSRP was dissolved.
After leaving Harvard during an inevitable reconsideration of the Bureau's relation to the increasingly medicalized mental health services, Charlie had a private practice for a few years and then suffered a dreadful stroke, which left his speech very impaired and his mobility limited. His kind and agile mind was intact, but the physical trap in which it was imprisoned made productive work all but impossible. Eventually other ailments compounded his debility and he could not survive. Here is the Globe death notice.
I miss him; I don't know anybody like him.