The common diagnosis that students have become more passive in recent years is in part due to the fact that they have had less to be active about. The end of the draft, significant progress in civil rights and affirmative action and relative economic prosperity have all moderated some of the burning issues of a decade ago.
But many of these developments, which people had begun to take for granted, are changing back. The government has cut student aid, and is seriously enforcing draft registration. Other issues which had for years been largely ignored, have since emerged nationally and at Harvard. Students and faculty members have joined the swelling nuclear disarmament movement, raising questions about Harvard's investments in weapon-producing companies.
What follows is a summary of these and other issues likely to surface on campus this year:
The complacency which colleges and universities had developed over student aid ended abruptly last year after the first round of President Reagan's budget cuts went into effect. The ensuing concern encompassed all of higher education, from the most financially strapped state and community colleges, to the richest schools in the nation--including Harvard.
Undergraduates have created a Coalition for Student Aid, which, while hardly igniting wide-spread protest, managed to rally students to campus and other area demonstrations. More important. President Bok--known more for his reservations about speaking out than for his national leadership--testified last spring at both congressional and state legislative hearings about the need for additional funding for student aid.
Now, after the dust has settled. It appears as if this outpouring of support has paid off. Congress has apparently maintained the 1981 budget allocations for grants and loans, rejecting Reagan's initial requests for deeper cuts. Even before this reversal in Washington took place. Harvard officials committed themselves to preserving an aid blind admissions policy, accepting students solely on the basis of merit and providing them with as much aid as they need. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted to increase the budget of the financial aid office, and the University upped its fund drive goals by $100 million in part to pay for increased student assistance.
But with one of the highest tuition rates in the country. Harvard has not survived the student aid storm unseathed. Officials must this year confront a growing perception among potential applicants that Harvard is too expensive. For Harvard, this has been worsened by the national attention given to Bok's annual report, which suggested that the federal government could save on aid by giving it only to those students with relatively high board scores.
Evidence of problems is borne out in application figures for the class of 1986, which showed, sharp decline in the number of applicants from low income families.
Many also blame the reputation for financial elitism for the sharp drop in the number of Blacks entering this year's freshman class. Indeed, while the College accepted 147 Black applicants only 97 opted to come here a sharp drop from the 120 to 140 who normally come to Cambridge each year.
But Black students say the cause of the drop off is deeper, arguing that the College is insensitive to their needs. As one example, they cite the University's refusal to establish a Third World Center--which many other schools, including a few in the Ivy League, have created. Bok instead agreed two years ago to set up a Foundation, which he said would enhance racial harmony.
But the Foundation, under the guidance of neurobiologist S. Allen Counter, has been rather quiet in its first school year and the Black Student Association this fall is expected to come out with a statement critical of its efforts so far.
Minority students will be closely, watching two student elections this fall for the success of minority candidates. This past year, negotiations failed to develop a plan for insuring minority representation on either the Undergraduate Council or the prestigious Law Review.
Another topic of controversy at the Law School is the number of minority faculty. There are currently, for example, only two Black faculty members. Over the summer, the Black Law Students Association threatened to boycott a course on civil rights this winter in part because the Law School hired a white professor to teach it School administrators have agreed in principle to review their affirmative action policy, but no formal action has been taken.