Text of Dowling Committee Report

Page 2 of 8

Three kinds of committees presently exist that involve undergraduates in college governance. First, there are the two major student-faculty committees--the Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE) and the Committee on Houses and Undergraduate Life (CHUL)--that were established following the Fainsod report. Second, there are three groups consisting exclusively of students,--the Student Assembly, the House Committees and the Freshmen Council. Finally, there are a variety of Standing Committees within the University that have student representatives. The following is a brief description of these committees, with comments concerning their strengths and weaknesses.

Committee on Undergraduate Education

This committee consists of ten members. Its chairman is the Dean of Undergraduate Education and its five other faculty members are elected members of the Faculty Council. The five undergraduate members are elected from the Educational Resources Group (ERG), a student committee concerned with academic affairs that has two elected representatives from each of the Houses and four freshmen. In addition, other interested students may participate as voting members in ERG after three meetings. The total number of active participants in ERG at any one time is between fifteen and twenty. The ERG meets approximately once a week to discuss, in a larger forum, issues to be presented to, or which are presently under consideration by CUE. The parent committee meets approximately once every two weeks.

CUE is considered to be a very successful committee. Indeed, most believe it to be the most effective student-faculty group at Harvard. Both student and faculty participants feel the meetings are interesting, worthwhile and congenial. The Committee's accomplishments are significant. For example, the recent reform in tutorial practices and the annual student review of course offerings represent successful initiatives on the part of CUE. The interactions between the student members on CUE and the ERG is viewed as a healthy one in that it affords the CUE representatives a broader student view on various academic issue. The size of both CUE and ERG appears also to be optimal; small enough to provide for effective interaction between participants, yet large enough to obtain a fairly representative view of the issues.

The main problem voiced concerning CUE was the lack of any formal mechanism for CUE and ERG representatives to report to their constituents, namely, the students-at-large in the Houses and freshmen dormitories.

Committee on Houses and Undergraduate Life

This committee is a very large one, consisting of an elected undergraduate representative from each House, three undergraduates from the Freshman Class, the House Masters..the Dean of Freshmen, and the Dean of Students. The meetings are chaired by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Dean of the College is the Vice-Chairman. In addition, at the invitation of the Dean of the College, representatives from Finance, the Housing Office, Food Services, and Buildings and Grounds attend most meetings. Meetings are held once a month, and at any one meeting, as many as 30 or more members may be present. CHUL, at the present time, has five standing committees: executive, house systems, budget, educational policy, and food services. These committees meet approximately once a month, have both student and faculty members, and report to the parent body. In addition, the student members of CHUL meet separately in a forum called the Caucus to discuss issues presently before, or which are to be presented to the parent committee.

During its ten years of existence, CHUL has been most effective in planning, aiding, and advising on the implementation of the co-residential House system that is now in place at Harvard. More recently, CHUL has formulated more equitable procedures for the selection of Houses by Freshmen than had existed previously. Nevertheless, as illustrated by the prolonged and often tedious CHUL debates on hot and cold breakfasts or kiosks, CHUL is not considered by its members to be nearly as successful nor as satisfying as CUE. Its meetings tend to be more combative and often the issues discussed are not of general enough interest to engage the entire group. It has been remarked that there are too many speeches given in CHUL meetings and there is not nearly enough dialogue. Many of the members of CHUL feel uncertain concerning its role. For example, its educational policy subcommittee overlaps the concerns of CUE, and occasionally both groups are studying the same problem.

CHUL appears to be too large a committee and its concerns too diverse for it to be as effective as it might be. Each year an enormous amount of energy is expended educating its new members concerning its procedures and the issues before the committee. Yet issues thoroughly discussed in a previous year are often brought up again, causing the continuing members, particularly the Masters, to lose interest. Communication between CHUL and the students-at-large is also a problem; some representatives report regularly to their constituents, others do not.

The Student Assembly

The Student Assembly consists of 96 elected undergraduate members, elected from the Houses and the Freshman Class according to the formula of one delegate for every 75 students. Other interested students may participate in Assembly meetings which are held once every two weeks. The Assembly has five committees that are concerned with housing and service to students, educational matters, finance, student rights, and communication between the Assembly and the student body and, also, among student groups. In addition to these standing committees, there is also an administrative committee made up of the chairs of the five committees of the Assembly as well as the officers of the Assembly--the chairman, vice-chairman, secretary, and treasurer.

The Assembly came into being in 1978, following the approval of its constitution by the undergraduate body. The Assembly constitution was formulated by students from every House and the Freshman Class who gathered at their own initiative to write a charter for student participation in college governance. The Assembly has no formal input into the administrative or legislative bodies of the College, such as the Faculty Council or Council of Masters, and no faculty members or administrators hold seats in the Assembly. In its short history, the Student Assembly has initiated and implemented a number of projects. The Assembly has conducted surveys of the student body on issues of concern to undergraduates that have led, for example, to the extension of library hours during reading and exam periods. The Student Assembly has also organized a University-wide rock concert at the Bright Hockey Center and helped implement a successful publicity program to save energy in residential areas.

Despite these successes, many students both inside and outside the Assembly feel that the organization has not operated at its full potential. A severe shortage of funds has limited the ability of the Assembly to conduct its internal affairs, to research issues, and to communicate with other governance groups or with the student body in an adequate manner. More importantly, there is much confusion within the College as to the role of the Student Assembly in the present governance structure of the College. Many of the functions of the Assembly and its committees overlap with those of CHUL, CUE and the existing Standing Committees of the College. The Assembly as presently structured competes with existing governance groups. At any one time, the Assembly, CHUL, CUE-ERG may all be discussing the same or very similar issues.

House Committees

Each House has a student committee that deals primarily with House affairs. These Committees are very diverse both between Houses and in different years. The House committees ordinarily have an elected Chairman and Treasurer. To become a voting member, a House resident is typically required to participate in three meetings in a given period of time. Ten to twenty per cent of the House residents attend the weekly meetings. In some Houses, the Masters regularly participate; in others they do not. The House Committees usually take responsibility for the election of student representatives to CHUL, ERG-CUE, the Student Assembly and certain standing committees (see below).