Progressive Alliance Group Proposal Tabled by CCL

Concerns prompt commitee to withold student group status for umbrella organization

In an extremely rare move, the Committee on College Life (CCL) on Friday tabled a proposal to officially recognize the newly formed Progressive Alliance student organization.

The Progressive Alliance—founded by Stephen N. Smith ’02 and Elizabeth S. Thrall ’05—seeks to be a “coordinating organization for Harvard’s progressive activist groups,” according to its application for College recognition.

Numerous CCL members at Friday’s meeting questioned whether activist groups had agreed to be under the umbrella of the Progressive Alliance. Some suggested the Progressive Alliance’s inclusion of these groups without their consent would be arrogant.

“It’s a wonderful way of organizing things, but it affects the autonomy of those groups,” CCL member Zachary L. Bercu ’04 said last night.

For example, while the proposal for the Progressive Alliance stated that the group will work with the Undergraduate Council, the council has not officially agreed to be part of the Progressive Alliance.

However, Smith said that 15 to 20 groups have pledged their support for the Progressive Alliance and that he will bring this information to the CCL when it reconsiders the proposal at its next meeting.

“If they want more hard proof that groups are behind us, then that’s what we’ll produce,” Smith said.

Committee members also questioned Smith’s dedication to the new group, citing his founding of many activist student groups, including Har’d Corps and BASIC.

Smith has also been involved in the Living Wage Campaign and has served on the Undergraduate Council.

“He establishes something and then dumps it off onto someone else,” council member Jim R. Griffin ’02 said last night.

Other committee members raised concerns that Smith is a senior and will not be able to ensure the group continues after June.

But Smith emphasized that he is not the sole leader of the group.

“It’s not my project,” he said. “It’s certainly not about me or my contacts.”

CCL member Rohit Chopra ’04 remained optimistic about the Progressive Alliance’s chances when the committee again considers the group’s application.

“I think it’s actually going to pass,” he said. “It’s more of a procedural issue. If there are groups who want this alliance to happen, the administration will respect that.”

While CCL did fully approve 28 new student groups at Friday’s meeting, it only provisionally approved two organizations—the Harvard Initiative for Peace and Justice (HIPJ) and the Harvard Civil Liberties Union (HCLU).

HIPJ, a group calling for the U.S. to end its war in Afghanistan that led anti-war rallies at Harvard immediately after Sept. 11, was approved provisionally until it clarifies its mission.

Additionally, CCL provisionally approved HCLU because it was unclear whether the group could legally use a name so similar to that of the American Civil Liberties Union.

After the committee’s consideration of new students groups, it moved on to discuss the available student space on campus. Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 proposed the creation of a CCL subcommittee for space analysis.

Calling it “an evil monster that’s chasing us,” Chopra said finding space for student groups is one of the most pressing issues facing students.

Student members of the committee noted the difficulty student groups experience when trying to reserve meeting space.

The committee particularly discussed the lack of music practice rooms and storage space and the expected loss of the Agassiz Theater for undergraduate performances in 2004.

—Staff writer Claire A. Pasternack can be reached at cpastern@fas.harvard.edu.