To the Editors of The Crimson:
I am writing in response to Jean Engelmayer's article of Tuesday the first, covering the meeting of the Undergraduate Council on the evening before. The article opens by assuming the "the Undergraduate Council last night became tangled in the sort of procedural arguments that some observers say have periodically 'strangled' its effectiveness this year," and this theme pervades the article. In the first place. I disagree with the presentation of this article, and regret that your newspaper has tolerates such rampant editorializing in a front-page "news" article. And in the second place. I disagree much more strongly with the article's conclusions.
The article focuses on the Council's failure to suspend a rule, requiring that any resolution with a budget over five hundred dollars be scrutinized by a committee beforehand, in order to grant several thousand dollars to the Rugby Club. Now if the Council's resources were limitless, and we could spend at whim without any attention to economy or consistency, then we could well have afforded the Rugby Club's grant and I doubt that many members would have opposed it. But the Council is not infinitely rich: therefore we have of necessary developed guidelines to order our spending, based on our experience awarding grants over the past two years. The alternative to such guidelines would be a student government which is reckless, irresponsible, and poor--both financially and spiritually.
On the other hand, we also have rules to protect those who seek our assistance, lest they suffer by our internal guidelines. One of these rules, if the Council had chosen to apply it, would have given the Rugby Club its money. The choice was very clear-cut, not "tangling" or "strangling" as the article implies. The Council must decide between two values: responsibility and consistency in our grants to undergraduate organizations, or much-needed assistance to one undergraduate organization. Both values are very attractive ones, and each drew support from many members: but with our limited resources we cannot have both. We can either help fellow students who will be representing us at a national tournament, or we can have consistency in order to be fair to the organizations (such as the Kuumba Singers) to whom we have had to refuse money for similar projects in the past.
Which value should have prevailed is purely a matter of opinion. I would have preferred to suspend the rule requiring scrutiny by a committee, but I can fully appreciate the arguments against its suspension. The Council voted for the option which, in its opinion, was best and fairest for the undergraduate community: that we achieve consistency for all organizations at the expense of a few is unfortunate but inevitable. I hardly think that the members who voted against suspending the rule brought any discredit upon themselves or the Council by doing so.
The article's concentration up on the proceedings instead of the issues is both unfortunate and deceptive. The article implies that our deliberations are "tangled," but at all times out debate was directed and orderly, giving both members and nonmembers the opportunity to speak. The article mentions that we considered six amendments to out bylaws, as it to imply that we unnecessarily complicate out meetings with rules, yet neglects two crucial details: first, that four of those six amendments were intended to simplify our existing procedures: and second, that we were discussing six amendments at one meeting--as unusually high number--only because we had postponed them throughout the semester in order to devote our time during the year to more substantive achievements. Finally, although the article does devote several paragraphs so the Council's freedom-of-speech report and a couple more to our debate of the housing lottery, it complains about the meeting's procedure while completely ignoring our substantive discussion at the same meeting or reports on improving freshman academic advising, improving the quality of sections, and increasing student-faculty contact through the Senior Common Room.
The considerations in favor of or against the rugby Club grant were complicated, but unfortunately the article conveniently neglects these. That the Council could weigh these considerations thoughtfully and efficiently is hardly reason for complaint. The article would have had real came for complaint if we had considered the grant without any regard for our past experience and precedents. Brain R. Melendex Vice Chairperson Undergraduate Council