Minorities and the Convention

THE MAIL

I was appalled and saddened to read (March 15) of the five minority organizations seeking "special representation" under the proposed constitution. The members of these organizations apparently fail to comprehend that direct constitutionally-mandated interest-group representation is a very tricky, and ultimately inappropriate, vehicle for the realization of their goals.

There are at least two big problems with this approach. One is that such representation tends to make consensus-building far more difficult than it need be. More importantly, from both the theoretical and practical standpoints, such a scheme raises the simple question of where to stop. Having set such a precedent, one is compelled to weigh the legitimacy of any other claimant groups that may arrive on the scene. When other groups (final clubs, athletic teams, commuters, Hungarian-Americans, short people) seek similar status, what criteria do we employ in selecting among them?

The proper role for an interest group is as a force for change working upon a legislative body, not within it. As labor unions, civil rights groups and other associations have demonstrated, policy can be affected in this way. What's more, change so wrought emerges from a process widely perceived as legitimate. In a democracy, no group is entitled to representation except to the extent that it competes effectively in an electoral process and in the marketplace of ideas. If these five groups want direct representation, let their members stand for election before the entire college community (or its designated sub-units). Or let them work to defeat candidates they deem undesirable. Otherwise, we cheapen a vital principle of democracy, encourage ethnic hostility, and open a Pandora's box which may well prove frightfully difficult to close.

--Christopher H. Foreman '74

  Freshman Proctor