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Rules and Responsibility


"The Committee accepts wholeheartedly the traditional Harvard belief in self-reliance, independence and the acceptance of responsibility for his own education on the part of the student."

So wrote Dean Bender in the report of the Committee on Advising. The same day that this statement was released Associate Dean Watson returned the faculty's set of rules for undergraduate organizations to the council.

The Faculty Committee of Student Activities has been examining a set of rules proposed last spring by the council. The council rules conformed admirably to the theory that the Harvard student should be allowed to make his own way. But the faculty committee, in rewriting them, has provided an interesting lesson in the relationship between theory and practice.


1. "Members must be students in Harvard University." This rule, proposed by the Dean and the faculty committee eliminates the phrase "or Radcliffe College" from the original council suggestion of last spring. Why take out Radcliffe? Harvard men aren't mature enough to handle the problem of women in men's clubs or mature enough to select their own membership? Of course they are. The evidence of the Harvard organizations that work closely with counterparts at Radcliffe shows this. But even if the point were debatable, consistency with the theory of self-reliance would demand that the men be given a chance to show their maturity, or find out from practical experience that they still had a lot to learn. But no; no women in Harvard clubs.


2. This rule was added in the faculty committee's version: "No organization shall be allowed to appear on a commercially sponsored Radio or T.V. program." Why not? Apparently for three reasons. First, that the performance might in some way reflect on Harvard's name. But Harvard's name is founded upon rock and no amount of petty smirching--even if there is any--is going to affect it. Second, that the University might seem to support the views of the performers (who might be the John Reed Club, say). But the next rule down on the list prevents an organization from purporting to "represent the views or opinions" of Harvard. Finally, that the organization would be selling the name of Harvard for money. But no company would sponsor a poor Harvard organization; and therefore any group being sponsored would be worthy in its own right; and being worthy would really be selling its own good name--which it has a perfect right to do. Furthermore the Corporation itself, which has imposed this rule on the faculty committee from above, sells the Harvard name and that of the Band once a week during the fall in commercially-sponsored TV shows of the Harvard football games. If the Corporation can sell the Harvard name surely an undergraduate organization with a reputation can sell its own.

Much the same arguments apply against another addition in the same section: "No organization may be connected with any advertising medium which makes use of the name of Harvard."


3. The faculty committee added a whole new section giving special requirements to be fulfilled by the founders of a new publication, "including details as to financing, circulation, authorship, contents, and policy ..." The committee was obviously worried by the prospect of another "New Student" case. But the type of problem it is guarding against--an "unsavory" national group using a few men at Harvard to front for a ready-made magazine--is already covered by the rule which requires that a group "make all policy decisions without obligation to any parent organization." And the requirement that a proposed publication give details about its "contents and policy" is hardly allowing its founders "independence and the acceptance of responsibility."


4. There is one notable case in which the faculty committee could have improved the rules proposed to it by the Council. That is a clause requiring a group, in order to be recognized, to show "evidence of financial solvency." This prerequisite, which meant something different to its sponsors, is now, to us, in obvious contradiction to the rule that "Each organization shall be fully responsible for its own finances." If a group has to fulfill certain (unspecified) requirements as to finances before it becomes recognized, it clearly is not solely responsible for its won finances. The faculty committee might well have questioned the solvency requirement in the name of self-reliance.


The faculty committee has added two new sections mainly concerned with the application of parietal rules to undergraduate organizations. To accept them one has to accept many of the basic principles of the restrictive parietal rules themselves; to attack them, therefore, one has to attack the parietal rule structure of which they are but a logical extension. This is not the time to discuss strict parietal rules, but it is significant to note that they are based on the same undervaluation of student maturity as some of the other rules noted above.


This leaves us with several rules on which the council and faculty committee appear to agree, but which have not been phrased with an eye on the future. Foremost among these is the Financial Responsibility rule already cited. To clear up a possible ambiguity regarding to when the organization should be responsible, the rule should be rephrased in some such way as this: "Each organization shall be solely responsible to its won members for its own finances."

Likewise the rule about membership lists should make it clear that the Dean's Office is not to keep these lists in its files unless the organization has no objections (as few but groups worried about political persecution will have). The Dean, of course, should have the right to call for lists whenever he wants them for administrative purposes.


The rule reading "Admission fees are permissible provided their purpose is to support the legitimate activities of the organization, concerned," leaves too much dependent on the vague word "legitimate" and makes no reference to fees charged on other than University property. It should be changed to "Admission fees are permissible except insofar as they endanger the tax-exempt status of the University."

And the rule reading "Organizations taking part in public performances outside of Cambridge must receive prior permission from the Dean's Office," should be changed to "... must notify the Dean's Office in advance."


If it weren't for the highly important exceptions noted above this newest set of rules would be well on its way to becoming what Dean's Office, Council, and the undergraduate organizations themselves have been shouting for. Only a little cleaning up would remain to be done. But regrettably these exceptions are of such significance as to indicate that an excessively paternal regard for the Harvard man still lurks in the breast of officialdom. Perhaps not. Let us hope not. Certainly the rules have come a long way from the original version.

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