EACH NEW GENERATION of undergraduates learns the hard way about the Committee on Rights and Responsibilities (CRR). With the reasons behind the decade-long student boycott of this disciplinary group shrouded in the past, College administrators seek every year to slip the CRR past House Committees and the Freshman Council, hoping they've forgotten what the CRR is or why students oppose it.
Sometimes--like this year--they are momentarily successful, and one House or another votes to break the boycott, inevitable saying that their goal is to "reform CRR from within." But each time, as knowledge about the CRR's origins and procedures spreads, students have eventually restored the boycott. There is every reason this year for the Adams and South House Committees and the Freshman Council--all of which recently voted to send representatives to CRR--to reverse their votes and resume the boycott.
The CRR emerged in the wake of the 1969 occupation of University Hall and student strike, hastily created to discipline student protesters. Its 1969 proceedings led to the discipline or expulsion of more than 100 demonstrators. Its governing document, the Resolution on Rights and Responsibilities, is filled with vagueness: under its provisions, for example, the CRR can judge whether a student has shown "gave disrespect for the dignity of others" and expel him on that subjective basis. The University is far more likely to use the CRR to punish political demonstrators of the future than to uphold human dignity.
The CRR allows no mechanism for appeal of its decisions, and admits hearsay evidence to its proceedings. Students have boycotted it since its creation both to indicate their disapproval of its procedures and to protest the blatantly political nature of the motives behind its creation. Administrators have tinkered with some details of CRR's workings in response to student pressure, but the group's essential purpose remains unchanged: to co-opt some students into sitting in judgement on their peers for their political actions. Reform from within cannot alter that, and reforms alone will not improve a group with such an abhorrent purpose. Abolition, not reform, is CRR's deserved fate.
By now, the various deans who struggle each year to bring students into CRR might have received the message, and given up. The continuing effort to keep CRR alive by artificial means--it has not met since 1975--shows only that administrators want to be prepared to discipline tomorrow's protesters, whoever they may be and wherever they may crop up. The only ally the administration has in the CRR debate is ignorance, and the only battles it wins are against the uninformed. As long as students remember the events of 1969, or can educate themselves, the boycott will continue. And maybe some December Dean Epps will get tired of sending around his invitations to join CRR, and the committee will finally be put to rest, the deadest of dead horses.