Vice-President Reynolds and his subordinates complain that they have been forced to devote more and more time to answering student investigation groups, sometimes even at the expense of their real job of University "housekeeping." Reynolds and Dean Bender say that administrative personnel are not equipped to give unilateral answers on undergraduate problems and that these answers in the past; have occasionally disagreed with the established policy of the Dean's Office. The result, they claim, is an increases in student-administration misunderstanding.
To resolve these two problems, Bender suggests a new regulation. It would force all student investigators to clear through Bender any requests for interviews with the administrative departments, from Reynolds down to University police. Bender estimates that three out of every four such interviews are now necessary and that these could be eliminated by the proposed system.
Free Investigation Valuable
The cure is vastly worse than the disease. It has already caused more misunderstanding, including the threatened resignation of two Student Council members, than it was designed to prevent. Refusal, for any reason, to allow direct investigation by students of the food they eat or the rooms in which they live is a violation of student rights. The constitution of the Student Council, approved by the Dean's Office, has always specifically stated the right of free investigation. Moreover, Bender, the man who suggests the new regulation, told the Council at its first meeting of the fall that its chief function and value was as a "free investigatory and deliberative body," which has made some reports of "extraordinary significance" to University policy. Remove the freedom, and you undermine all such future reports.
More Restriction Possible
It must be pointed out that Bender intends no censorship. However, it will be difficult to convince investigators of this fact if they have just been barred from seeing an administrative official on some very heated topic of the moment.
Nor is is there any reason to believe that in the future this regulation would be limited to the University's administrative departments. House masters, or even professors, might conceivably some day claim that undergraduate investigations were drawing them away from their real duties, and thus demand that the rule be extended to include themselves.
There are at least two better solutions to Reynolds' difficulties. First, the vice-President could hire a direct assistant, such as Associate Dean Watson is to Bender, and put him in charge of handling all student investigations. Second, student investigators might be allowed all the freedom they now have to interview administrative officials, but be refused permission to make public the resultant statements until they had obtained the viewpoint of the Dean's Office.
Thus, the answer to Reynolds' troubles is obviously not a "clear it with Wilbur" policy. If Reynolds and his juniors feel that they are overworked and subject to foot-in-mouth disease, it is their problem to solve, not that of the Dean's Office.