The council’s meeting with Summers centered on such contentious issues as grade inflation, the living wage and the banishment of Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) from campus.
While not taking any specific policy stands, Summers strongly stated support for ROTC.
Calling military service “noble,” he hinted that Harvard and its community may not be supporting the military enough.
“We need to be careful about adopting any policy on campus of non-support for those involved in defending the country,” Summers said. “Every Harvard student should be proud that we have in our midst students who make the committment to ROTC.”
He also implied that he may have responded more harshly to last year’s student takeover of Mass. Hall than former University President Neil L. Rudenstine.
“It is very wrong when attempts are made to shut down portions of the University to intimidate people from carrying on their work,” he said.
Council members seemed to get the hint.
“I definitely thought he sent a signal that there are certain channels that students will have to go through to raise their concerns,” said council member Robert M. Gee ’02. “He made that very explicit.”
Although Summers did not take a stand on the living wage beyond expressing support for the Katz Committee—which is currently researching the topic—he made clear his expectations on the tone of future debates.
“Presentations that present it as good and evil are not likely to be helpful in solving the problem,” he said.
On some questions raised by the council—such as grade inflation—Summers did not offer a definitive answer, preferring instead to field opinions from the audience.
“We asked a lot of questions which definitely do not have quick answers,” said council member Rohit Chopra ’03.
Summers did not use the podium and addressed the council members from his seat at a table. While at times he tapped his feet or traced figure eights with his finger over his mouth, Summers seemed willing to let the conversation amble on until he had heard every view on the matter.
Regardless of what he said or did not say in the meeting, council members praised the president for his willingness to listen to their concerns.
“I feel that he’s been around, not just shaking hands, but that he’s had candid and thoughtful discussions with students,” Gusmorino said. “Summers is at a point where it is important for him to be building bridges.”
After Summers’ departure, the council proceeded with scheduled business, such as the approval of its budget. Due to a recent term bill increase, the council this year will allot a record $155,500 to student groups.
Council Vice President Sujean S. Lee ’03 also announced that tickets to the Dispatch concert, to be held Oct. 15 in Sanders Theatre, have been sold out.
The Dispatch show will mark the second major concert organized by the council, which last year brought the Roots and the Black Eyed Peas to a sold-out Sanders.
—Staff writer William M. Rasmussen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.