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Council Examines 7 Aspects of Its Activities


Monday the Student Council released full text of the report on the College Wide Committees to Re-Examine the Student Council. Under the chairmanship of Charles R. Brynteson '50 and Walter B. Raushenbush '520 the investigating group analyzed the relations of the student Council to: the College administration; the House system; semi-public corporations (National Students Association, elections and membership, and public relations. Below are excerpts from the report.

College Administration

The function of Harvard's Student Council in its relations with the administration is to suggest changes in University policy and to criticize and advise upon innovations which the administration is considering. In the first aspect the Council goes to the administration with student grievances or possible improvements; in the second, the administration comes to the Council to discover how subjects will react to or he affected by proposed changes.

A "gentleman's agreement" with the Dean's office exists which states "that no major change in educational policy or in rules and regulations of the College will be made without first consulting the Council and seeking it advice." Actually the Council's activities have been broader than the agreement indicates, for all departments of the University have used the Council as a sounding board of student opinion, and all suggested changes originating with the Council have received the serious consideration of the faculty.

Athletic System Sound

Interhouse athletics are an important part of the House scene and are described fully in an appendix to this report written by Robert Claflin '50. But this committee feels strongly that the present interhouse athletic setup is working remarkably well without any noticeable Council supervision or intervention.

A discussion of the Interhouse Committee and the several houses, with related recommendations, will be found in the appendix. But recommendations relevant to the Council follow:

1. The Constitution requirement that an ex-officio representative to the Committee from the Council sit at Committe meetings should be regularly fulfilled, so that the Council may be informed on this important phase of college activity.

2. This representative to the Committee should make a brief report to the Council following each Committee meeting, and should regularly report back to the Committee as to Council criticism and recommendations.

3. The Committee's Constitution should be amended so that continuity of the Committee and responsibility for its initial operations each fall should be the job of the Council, not that of the Union Committee representative of the preceding year.

Individual Houses

Regarding Relations between the individual Houses and the Council:

1. The House Representative to the Council should attend all meetings of the House Committee in his House, either as a full or as an ex-officio member, both to inform himself of House activities and to report relevant information on Council doings.

2. The House representative to the Council should hold weekly office hours, and might well make use of a suggestion box to sound out directly the members of the House on both Council and House Committee matters. (Suggestions should of course be signed.)

3. Information gathered from attendance at House Committee meetings and from contact with house members be presented in a formal monthly report (brief, however) to the Council by each House representative.

4. Nominations for House representative to the Council should be improved by providing nominations from the floor at a meeting with an adequate quorum, nomination of up to three men by the House Committee, and nomination by petitions of not less than forty House residents, to be circulated only after the first two modes of nomination have been completed and the nominees publicized.

Regarding the Council and the Houses considered collectively: (See also recommendations on Interhouse Dance Committee.)

1. The House Committee Chairmen should meet monthly as a consultative body with the President of the Student Council or due representative, and the chairman of the Interhouse Dance Committee.

2. As a part of what the Council can do to improve the workings of the House System, we feel that it should seriously reassess the advisability of continuing the existence of the Sophomore and Junior Class Committees. The election and supervision of these committees seems to us to give the Council unnecessary trouble.

Semi-Public Corporations

In general, there is among the semi-public organizations a proper desire for greater autonomy. But this must not be sought at the expense of a general Council supervision and coordination of the programs of these organizations. The Council should fulfill its proper function of overseeing the total pattern of student activities.

The program of the Council and the semi-public organizations could be related more effectively by an administrative vice-president of the Council. He would consult with these groups on matters of policy or budget to be brought before the Council, and could acquaint Council members in advance of any problems of these organizations to be brought to the Council floor.

Combined Charities

This Committee feels that an effort should be made to set up Combined Charities as a permanent semi-autonomous organization. Continuity of personnel might thus be achieved, and the uncertainties of the present temporary and dependent setup avoided. Permanence should also help promote a continual education of the student body in the value and the problems of the Drive.

Ideally, the Council should not raise its operating funds from the Charities Drive. It is the job of the Council to sell itself and its program to the student body.

Saizburg Seminar

. . . The name of Harvard and the fact that the project has the backing of Harvard students has not only been of great aid to the Seminar but has also brought Harvard much good will abroad.

Class Committee

This Committee seriously questions whether the Sophomore and Junior Class Committee serve a useful function. We do not question the Union Committee or the Permanent Class Committee or the Class Day Committee; the value of each is clear. But as the House is intended to become the primary unit of college life after the freshman year, Class Committees have found it difficult to sponsor successful functions in the past. The Council pays for these failures. Further, it may be doubled whether one class function really promotes the elusive objective of class unity. Perhaps that unity might well be dispensed with until the senior year.

Crimson Key

The Key should be a self-sufficient and autonomous organization. It is to be hoped that its efforts to win financial independence will succeed. But the Council vice-president should be able to work with the Key as with other groups to gear its program into the college scene.

Freshman Activities

It would be unfortunate if the Council's control of freshman activities were extended. Harvard is a highly individualistic society; mass functions are almost unheard of, small social units, either formal or informal, are rare, and generally speaking most men are highly proficient in one line. In freshman year however, these "professional" interests are more apt to be latent and thus face greater competition from other ones; the fundamental concepts of a liberal education rest on this assumption.

The Council's role should extend, therefore only to the point where it should Beet that there is ample opportunity for freshman participation in all kinds of activities, especially those such as athletics and Union functions where the emphasis is chiefly social. The Council should not attempt to unduly regulate any activity directly nor should it use its influence to overstate its immediate case to the freshman class, as perhaps has been done in previous charity drives.


The work of the Student Council is largely done by its Committees; hence, the effectiveness of the Council depends upon the committees.

It has been said that the Council has spread itself out too far over a wide variety of projects and tasks and so has lessened its effectiveness. A solution to this might be the early formulation of the objectives for the year and the shaping of the committee structure to carry out those objectives. This would leave the President--and it is suggested the Secretary and Treasurer also--a wide range of discretion in setting up the Council for the year, but having taken into account the interests and capabilities of the membership, they will give the Council the structure in which it will operate most effectively.

This relates to the chief purpose of the Council as this writer sees it to be, namely as an intermediary between the Dean's Office and the undergraduate student body. Long range reports and routine handling of undergraduate projects both have an important place in fulfilling that purpose, and neither should be emphasized to the exclusion of the other. This calls for objectivity and foresight on the part of the directing force of the Council, namely the three officers. It is obvious that the permanent committees will handle the routine activities and that the more flexible committee structure can be directed toward special projects and reports. In this way the two functions of the Council can be carried out and the interest and capabilities of the members given greater consideration.

The charge to a committee should be clearer than is often the case at present. University Hall has said that committee chairmen often come to discuss problems without knowing just what they want to find out--in short they are not clear on just what their job is. Not only could this kind of situation be prevented, but the committee could be given a wider scope for its won discretion, if the charge were quite clear.

Election and Membership

Due to the high quality at appointed members in recent years, this Committee favors are appointed seats on the Council. This should be possible without destroying the Council's democratic base. There are many excellent men who are lost to the Council because of the necessity for election and the political overtones attached to any election.

Public Relations

The first pact that the investigator comes across in this subject is that, roughly speaking the student body goes not care about the Council.

Only the red-hot issues will draw the public. Hence the number of public meetings is naturally limited by the number of good topics.

Probably it would be a good idea to eliminate the preliminary report-making and treasurer's report-reading that is so dear to the legislative mind. Perhaps the special public meetings might be held on nights other than Monday.

Probably the best thing the Council has done publicity-wise in the past few years, was the Poskanzer Report.

It is no coincidence that the Poskanzer Report was also one of the best things the Council has done in these years. The moral, once again, is simple; do good and significant work and you will get good publicity

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