CDU: Politics as Usual


To the editors of the Crimson:

Student Assembly elections are being held today, and for the modern "Prince" there is a familiar dilemma: by what means shall he seek power?

This time around, his choices are two. He may seek election to the assembly as an independent candidate, or he may seek election to the assembly as a member of the newly-formed Coalition for a Democratic University.

Adherents of the Coalition for a Democratic University (CDU) whose eyes are bright but whose vision is dim propose no answers to the hard questions of efective input into the University decision-making system. What specifically (not generally) do we want? "More input into budgeting decisions" is not a legitimate goal. Is our proposal acceptable to a majority of undergraduates? If we were administrators would we agree to such a proposal and under what conditions? How can we present our proposal and under what conditions? How can we present our proposal most effectively? A strong case obviously requires meticulous preparation.

I do not mean to imply that University administrators have done their part in reaching out to students. They have not even been tactful enough to make pretence of doing so. They bristle at our incisive questions. They remind us of our impotence. This does not change the power structure within which we live, however, and to which our methods of seeking power must be applied. It remains for us to develop creative methods which allow the administration to agree with us on substantive issues.

If there is no negotiation, no reasonable chance of compromise or change, and the issue for which we are working seems of sufficient importance, it is our right and responsibility to demonstrate.

The CDU is not an issue-specific advocacy group, however. It is a "political party" which relies on the same cant and rhetoric as more narrowly focused special interest groups, but proposes to represent a substantial portion of undergraduates. The CDU represents the type of power-seeking students who want power over the decisions of other students. There is nothing new about the CDU.

There is, however, something dangerous about the CDU: party politics. It threatens division and misrepresentation for the Assembly, and the alienation of the 61 per cent of the student body who as yet have formed no opinion on the assembly. To my mind, at Harvard we are individuals first, members of an undergraduate student body second and only then members of clubs and organizations. The logic of this ordering is at least that we are individuals all our lives, students here for four years, and members of groups if and only if we are here. Members of the assembly have joined a common enterprise as students, and the CDU threatens to destroy our common relationship.

I hope that voters will elect hard-working and responsible representitives whether they run on a CDU platform or not. I hope CDU representatives will vote decisions by the issue and officers by the person, and not according to prearrangement. What do I expect? I expect that. "Hope expensive commodity." Kenneth John Ryan '81