Sneider Missed Both Rally and Its Point

MAIL

To the Editors of The Crimson:

Mark Sneider's piece about a rally for student inclusion in the presidential search began, "If only Toqueville could have been there." If only Mark Sneider could have been there. While Sneider told me that he missed the rally, he did not spare us his opinion of it.

While we should question Sneider's ethics, we should not ignore his arguments. Though they contain statements about the rally that are disputed by the New York Times and by people who did not attend, his arguments deserve a response.

Rather than focus on issues, Sneider focused on people. Rally-goers were identified as "rabble-rousers," "fellow revolutionaries" and "complainers, ideologues or activists." We are described as a "predictable cadre of student activists" with a "narrow agenda."

Since my roommate on Peninsula never uses any of these terms about me, I asked Sneider, who has never heard my voice, why he chose them.

Alas, he told me it was because I attended a rally with such people, and that speaking at the rally made me an advocate of the sit-ins that I personally oppose. Sneider, by this standard, supports the official Crimson position giving students a veto over the presidential choice, since he did not dissent from The Crimson's editorial. This logic is absurd.

Sneider maintains that Harvard is not democratic. True. However, he ignores other private, non-democratic institutions, such as Princeton, Brown and Darthmouth, that included students in their searches. Sneider argues that such inclusion is unnecessary because, "It's hard to imagine how any one within earshot of Harvard Yard has not already heard" student opinion.

Curiously, Sneider ignores one quote from the Crimson article about the rally. He declines to report that Derek C. Bok left the scene 15 minutes before the rally began and ignores the fact that the majority of the search committee is not from the Boston area. Such admissions would reveal that the search committee is not within earshot.

Sneider complains that the agenda of the upcoming meeting between 15 undergraduates and three members of the search committee will be dominated by "student activists." Does he believe that apathetic people should lead this meeting, so the search committee can gauge their indifference? Perhaps Sneider should have reported that the "activists told him they will not dwell on political issues at this meeting, and that openness and inclusion are our main points."

Sneider contends that specific issues merit attention, but should not determine the next president. the students working for participation agree. We also agree that Harvard's president must be able to lead the upcoming fundraising drive, as well as guide undergraduate education. The search committee members will see to it that the next president is acceptable to corporations. She should be. However, only students care if the president is acceptable to us.

Why not a president who meets regularly with students and has office hours? It happens at other Ivy League universities. Why not Harvard?

Sneider claims, without basis in fact, that I found Dean [of the College L. Fred] Jewett unresponsive to student concern about Harvard's date rape policy. Nonsense! I only wish other administrators would act similarly. Furthermore I never compared President Bok to Mr. Rogers. I specifically omitted Bok's name because I believe such a personal attack is inappropriate.

For the record, I did suggest that Harvard administrators reminded me of Mr. Rogers because they are generally "older white men who treat the young people they work with like infants." I regret this statement because it was misquoted, because it allowed people to divert attention from real issues, but mainly because the generalization is unfair.

With regard to the assertion that the audience "pointed with scorn" at Dean [of Students Archie C.] Epps, nobody I've questioned recalls this incident. Perhaps Sneider is confusing this rally with another rally he did not attend.

Sneider's opinion piece presents an interesting viewpoint when one looks past the ad hominem attacks and the distortions of the truth. However, Sneider missed the point. He never addresses the main questions of the rally.

Why are 23 corporations represented on the search committee when students are not? Why is Harvard governed mainly by people who do not live in Massachusetts? What is Harvard teaching students when they may not participate in choosing their own leaders? What role should undergraduates play in directing their own education?

I encourage Sneider to write a column answering these questions. He could foster a discussion of ideas at Harvard. It is a discussion that the search committee and Sneider have carefully avoided. Daniel Tabak '92