This year marks the seven-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the British parliament, conceived as a fortress of feudal, aristocratic power. We also celebrate the one thousand thirty-fifth year of the less well-known but equally durable Icelandic parliamentary assembly, the Allthing of 930 A.D.
Compared to these shining lights of governmental stability, the three-year-old Harvard Council for Undergraduate Affairs seems a brief flicker. Yet astute observers of parliamentary history can learn much from its fall. Britain's institutions have endured because they once relied on the stable source of power in the society, the landowning nobility. If any government is to succeed here, it too must turn to the aristocracy for guidance and support. It must faithfully represent the interests of the College's hereditary nobility, the clubbies.
Clubbies have the most hands in the greatest number of political pies at Harvard. They form the largest cohesive group of undergraduates and, when mobilized, exert a dynamic influence upon the student body. As class marshals, they lead the line of eager seniors at commencement. They organize class reunions. They become Fellows of the Corporation and members of the Board of Overseers. They win fame and fortune in government and finance, and when they die they leave large sums of money to the University. They are praised in clubhouse fable and song, on building plaques, and in fellowship titles, while lesser figures pass and are forgotten.
The new Harvard Undergraduate Council and its subordinate Harvard Policy Committee are steps toward aristocratic government, but pitifully small ones. A few clubbies may win posts on the HUC, but only through the hit-or-miss democratic process. The HPC, while avowedly less democratic than its coordinate group, is still antiaristocratic. No self-respecting clubbie would want to join it. The HPC cannot do anything; it can only think. Neither body, so long as it ignores our natural leaders, can win the respect of the students. Both will have shorter lives than their predecessor.
So, in the hope that Harvard parliamentarians can soon end their search for a stable student council, I propose the formation of the Harvard Intra-Clubbie Council (HICC), to replace the HPC and HUC.
The HICC will be composed of the thirteen club presidents, one club member elected by each club, and three members of the Signet Society. One Signet representative must also be a member of the Lampoon. The President of the HICC should be elected by a majority vote of the Council. He must be a club president and a resident of Eliot House. In the unlikely event that no club president lives in Eliot, the presidents must choose a leader from among themselves by two-thirds majority, so long as their choice does not reside in Adams House.
Although organizationally unlike the defunct HCUA, the HICC will have substantially the same powers and functions. It can decide anything it wants to, provided no student or Faculty member disagrees. Its only source of money will be contributions collected at each Sunday supper at the Houses and in the Union. And these funds will be used only for the personal entertainment of the council members.
If the soon-to-be chosen student leaders adopt these proposals, I feel sure that the bird of governmental strength and stability will make its nest at Harvard.