To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
Last Thursday, fearing, I suppose, a riot led by scooter-mounted dragoons, Deans Watson and Monro abruptly cancelled the long-planned HCUA scooter auction, a novel and innocuous proposal previously approved by the University Police. Dean Watson's reason, to quote the CRIMSON, "We just don't want it today."
This relatively minor incident typifies administrative response to far too many of the HCUA's studies, suggestions and proporals. The Harvard Council for Undergraduate Affairs is supposedly charged with the responsibility of expressing and representing undergraduate opinion to the Administration, initiating and encouraging the adoption of special services for the students in the College, and co-operating with the faculty in academic and intellectual matters. The College officials have frequently pledged support and expressed admiration for the HCUA. In fact, however, almost all of the recent HCUA proposals have been ignored, swiftly rejected, or consigned to the bureancratic limbo of "further study."
In response to HCUA recommendations about elementary language instruction, room rents, parietal hours, Radcliffe inter-house, major library improvements, and even the relatively simple comments about inadequate lighting, the typical Administration reply has been, in effect, "We just didn't want it today."
For almost three years, the HCUA has been excusing its impotence and ignoring Administration snubs by trumpeting about the few minor concessions it has obtained from various officials, and by consoling itself that it takes time or the College bureaucracy to understand the function of the Council. As a former officer of the HCUA, I have found that officials of the College and University are only too happy to contact the HCUA whenever there is a project for which they desire student support, but many of these same officials are less interested in the HCUA when they have to consider student proposals involving their departments. Too many HCUA members have been unwilling or unable to realize that this attitude towards the Council is prevalent in official circles.
The Harvard Council for Undergraduate Affairs has operated almost from the beginning in an atmosphere of student apathy and official disinterest, or, worse, manipulation. Students in the College have come to expect very little from "their" Council, and I doubt if we will be surprised in the near future.
It is time for us to examine the record and potential of the HCUA. Has it lived up to its constitutional responsibilities? Has it become a respected organ of student opinion? Do the College officials pay more than lip service to the proposals it presents? Or has it become an organization which undertakes most of its studies at the request of the Administration rather than the students, finding its own ideas largely ignored by the officials in the College? The HCUA still deludes itself that it is powerful, influential and generally respected by students and faculty. The record it has compiled proves it sadly wrong.
The absence of formal student representation is far better than the presence of quasi-representation as seen in the HCUA. If the Deans wish to have a student group to conduct advisory studies at their request, then let them form one. If the undergraduates want a proper student council, then let us vote to establish one. As it is now, the HCUA cannot fill a dual position. I doubt if any such organization could succeed, faced with the recent attitude of the College officials.
On HCUA Election Day next December, if the Council still has shown no sign of positive action, and if the Administration still persists in considering the Council a personal one-way liason to be used for official projects, the undergraduate body should say to the Deans and the HCUA, "No thanks, we just don't want it today." Michal J. Galazka '63/64