THE Corporation's refusal to allow a student activist to attend its meeting with the Undergraduate Council today is hardly surprising. After all, Harvard's governing body has consistently rejected demands for a public forum where its seven members would have to answer student questions. However, this action sends a troubling signal to all those who have pushed for the Corporation to hold an open meeting and also open up Harvard's governance.
Outside of the fact that the Corporation has once again refused to open up Harvard's governance to any non-council members, the most troubling aspect of this is that the council has agreed to the Corporation's strictures on the meeting. Instead of demanding that the Corporation allow a member of the open meeting petition drive to attend the meeting, the council has decided to meet with the Corporation on the Corporation's terms.
By moving to include Noah Berger '89, one of the leaders of last year's open meeting petition drive, in it s upcoming meeting with the Corporation, the council had ostensibly recognized that it no longer wanted to represent student concerns on such a divisive political issue. Now, in Berger's stead, the council will send council member Robert Weissman '88-'89 to the meeting. Weissman, who took a leave of absence last year to participate in Harvard Watch, a watchdog group sponsored by Ralph Nader, is as capable as anyone of explaining the need for an open meeting. But the council might not always be so lucky. The real problem with the council's meeting is not who is going, but that the council is going at all--and has chosen to bow to the Corporation's strictures on doing so.
BECAUSE in recent years the council has sought to avoid involvement in controversial political issues, limiting the meeting to council members has the effect of stifling undergraduate criticism of the Corporation and its policies. In its apolitical form, the council merely acts as a shield for the Corporation, keeping controversial issues out of the agenda and relegating them to student protests.
We deplore the council's decision to cave in to the Corporation's dictates, and believe it should have boycotted the meeting instead of agreeing to the governing body's restrictions. Since the council has already decided to attend today's meeting, we can only urge the council to keep its agenda focused on the issues of open governance, divestment, unionization, and other campus political issues.