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Student Council

I. Evolution a Dichotomy


Thoughts of Student Council reorganization have been in the minds of Council members since the present constitution was drafted in 1946. This term, a long scheduled constitutional revision takes place as provided for in that charter. As a basis for this revision, a Council group last term prepared reports on the function of the Council in seven different fields, but the author of each report was limited to one narrow sector of Council affairs. Hence the evaluation fails to point out the fundamental split in Council activity, a division which must considered if reorganization is to be successful.

Originally the Council was an investigating and advisory group which tried to represent student opinion and complaints to the University officials. The body was organized in 1908 to remedy certain injustices perpetrated by the Deanery in abolishing all winter sports. Most notable among its original powers was that which allowed it "to confer with any of the governing bodies of the University or any member thereof, upon any subject pertaining to the undergraduate body." This purpose was reaffirmed years later by Dean Hanford when he specified the Council's official power in the form of a "Gentlemen's Agreement" between the Dean of the College and the Council. "No important change in the educational policy. . . of the College will be made without first consulting the Council and seeking its advice," he said. This both gave the Council its only power and determined its function of providing a liaison between the Administration and the students.

But the Council has recently acquired other functions. The pre-war Council undertook the management of student funds. This led students to demand a greater say in Council policies, and, after much agitation, the formerly appointed body was made an elected group in 1946. Once the Council members were elected by popular vote, their ideas of what they should do changed radically. They had to produce immediate evidence of their public interest to satisfy the constituents. This could best be done by a program of student welfare which had immediate effects. The long range function of counseling the Dean, the effects of which were felt only mildly by the students, was hardly the purpose an elected body would set up for itself.

Consequently, the Student Council since 1946 has had a dual function. The "Gentlemen's Agreement" gave it power and incentive to conduct long range, relatively colorless, investigations into matters of University policy toward the students, and the responsibility toward an electing public dictated a more immediately gratifying, publicity gaining program of social service. How this double purpose has affected the present Council's work, what the proper function of the Council is, and how the Council should be organized to fulfill this function will be the subjects of future editorials on this topic.

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