THE FIRST YEAR in office for Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 has been a momentous one, not only for the man who has graciously dealt with an unending stream of problems, but also for students who have suddenly had a taste of what it might be like to have significant input in College decisions. There's a sweet taste to the concept that students could have a real voice in the policies that affect their lives. But dear as the dream might be, the year has also proven that the goal of student control has not been met and there's still a long road to be travelled.
Looking out the window of his office, Jewett's eyes must linger on the shanties built by anti-apartheid activists to protest the University's investments in companies that do business in South Africa. Jewett has handled the shanty dilemma with a certain moderation. But the shanties were built on more than the South Africa issue. Shanty dwellers have dubbed their ragged settlement the Open University. Jewett probably has made many students feel like they live in a more open university, but it's as if a door that was once shut has been opened only a few inches.
Jewett should have by now earned a reputation of honesty, forthrightness, concern and openess to undergraduates. At times he seems a bit ill at ease; perhaps it is often more a duty than a pleasure to listen to student complaints. Yet he always encourages, nods his head and promises to look into whatever the issue might be and then consult with students.
Jewett started the ball rolling early in the year when he opened up discussions on the alcohol policy to undergraduates and the Undergraduate Council. Throughout the year he went to council meetings and answered questions. He went to dinner at the houses and even lived at the Radcliffe Quad, as if in solidarity with the Quadlings' plight.
Rather than blocking a council proposal on the house lottery to reveal lottery numbers to apprehensive freshmen, Jewett approved the previously rejected plan with startling and flattering speed. Jewett showed his concern for Quadlings by promising renovations to the dilapidated Quad Houses despite financial difficulties. Rather than postponing or cancelling changes to the buildings, Jewett listened to student pleadings. He modified the plans and finally gave the go-ahead for Quad remodeling.
When another group of students decided to remodel the Yard with an ivory tower and five shabby shanties, Jewett held negotiations with the students. He didn't like the shanties, but he never threatened to tear them down.
When students expressed concern over word processing facilities, Jewett agreed to look into the situation, and now there is a serious possibility that the College might set up a computer center for students.
But the bright side of the story only goes so far. For all the new attempts to solicit student opinion, this year has seen no slackening in an old and very different trend. The University continues a tradition of secrecy in student disciplinary matters. It proved itself to be adroit at manhandling student sentiment through the ill-conceived South Africa internship program.
Manipulation of the overseers election, censorship of the CUE Guide, not to mention turning the other eye while minority concerns slip through the cracks, are all uglier marks in the landscape of University policy than ever the shanties could have been in the Yard. A good listener like Jewett is only a first step.