The Path to Public Service at SEAS
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With three months of accusation and attack behind it and an immediate background of daily public sniping since the start of the fall term, Monday's joint session of Student Council members and men from the summer investigating group seemed doomed to failure. That the representatives succeeded in side-stepping personalities, in resolving procedural problems, and in setting the stage for intelligent and rapid work on the real issue at hand should betoken the beginning of a second and more productive stage in the job of reorganizing the Student Council and its constitution.
That issue had almost been obscured amidst the mutual doubts and suspicions prevalent for a week before the meeting. Perhaps the most encouraging single aspect of Monday's conference was the sudden concord on that real issue the goal of the new committee: "to provide the College with a democratic and representative Student Council"--in President Campbell's words.
Credit cannot be taken from the summer investigation for the emergence of that issue and its acceptance by the Council; for despite repeated claims of having planned its own investigation as far back as last spring, the Council did not pretend to any action before the incentive added by the events of the last three months. In any case, it is the resulting unanimity of opinion which is important.
In its announced agenda the Committee has taken another step beyond the petty animosities of recent weeks, a step which should add not only fairness but efficiency in forming a new basis for the Council. Meetings of the Committee will revolve around drafts of the present constitution and the one drawn up during the summer, with the members hopeful of resolving all but major differences.
Despite the announced policy of putting such differences up to the entire student body, it might prove disastrous to the whole undertaking if misunderstandings multiplied beyond a reasonable number. The Committee members should, therefore, bend their efforts toward reaching agreements immediately on as many of the minor issues as possible, and work hard and long at resolving the larger difficulties.
Still the major bugaboo is the question of elected versus appointed members, although off-the-record statements by Councilmen indicate that they are reconciled to cutting the number of appointed men severely in the new constitution. Even this obstacle, however, may be sidestepped. Traditional Council claims that appointed men are more efficient on specific tasks could be countered with a provision for use of non-elected men as members of certain committees. If representatives of both sides can go into every meeting with minds, unfettered, with effectiveness and democracy as their bywords, they will be able to produce, in only a few weeks, something immediate and concrete.
The eyes of the student body will be on the ten members of the Council Constitution at its first meeting this afternoon and at every future session, for the Council has made this most important of its committees genuinely representative of Harvard undergraduates. In addition to having their views expressed this time by men from their Houses and extra-curricular groups, undergraduates may themselves vote on disputed issues. This revolutionary referendum technique, proposed by members of the investigating group to make certain that their work would not be discarded by a Council majority, may well presage the dawn of the long-awaited new day in Harvard student government.
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