Closed Meetings

The Harvard Student Council is not God. This statement will astonish nobody except-the Harvard Student Council. Last Week that august organization, acting as if it were authorized and sanctioned from on high, held a closed meeting at which it removed Robert C. Fisher from the Council-operated NSA delegation. And it brought out of its closed session such an opaque and vague list of reasons--apparently based to some extent on information that has never been made public--that the student body, who elected Fisher, received no adequate idea of why he was impeached. Probably his impeachment was justified, but the electorate can't be sure, because nobody outside the Council knows either the specific charges or Fisher's answers to them.

All we have to go on is the word--The Word-- of the Council. This is clearly not as it should be. The fact is that the Council had no right to close the meeting, and thereby to withhold information from the student body. The Council constitution says that it "shall issue complete reports covering the business of all meetings" except "when two thirds of a quorum feel that publication of information concerning a subject will be detrimental to the best interests of the College as a whole." It is hard to see how it would have been "detrimental to the best interests of the College as a whole" if the student body had been given a clear idea of why Fisher was impeached. It might, conceivably, have been detrimental to Fisher. The Council felt that this would have been the case, and that is why the meeting was closed. But Fisher himself said that he did not care if the meeting were closed or not. And even if he cared, the Council's primary obligation was to the student body, and not to the man it was about to impeach. Of course, nothing should have been done to hurt Fisher unnecessarily, but the Council had no right to protect him--if you call it "protection" to keep Fisher's own case foggy along with everything else--at the expense of its obligation to the student body.

The Council must get rid of the idea that it can suppress information whenever it feels like it. The Council has used the same technique in the past, with equal lack of justification if not with equally flagrant results. Only very rarely does the Council deal with a subject about which information "will be detrimental to the best interests of the College as a whole.' And only then is it justifiable for the Council to close its meetings.