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Student Council

H. Two Functions for One Group


(This is the second in a series of editorials on the reorgainzation of the Student Council which is to take plane this term. Tuesday's editorial described the Council's early years as an appointed advisory group for the University administration. Then it showed how the Council took on responsibility for student funds and as a result was turned into an elected body. The elected representatives then felt the need to provide immediate public service to their constituents as well as to fulfill their original function of long range advising. Today's article will discuss the present Council in this double role.)

Elected student representatives are not likely to spend their time in office quietly studying important College problems and making unspectacular reports to the Dean. Even though this may be their proper function, the members of an elected body will not do it for two reasons. In the first place, each councilman must show the friends who elected him that he is actively working for their personal benefit. In the second place, the type of person who runs for public office and is popular enough to be elected is not generally the type who is willing to bury himself in unacclaimed investigations into educational policy. Today's Student Council is almost wholly elected. Therefore its best efforts do not go into counseling University officials.

Instead, the Council concentrates on a large varied program of social service for the undergraduates. It sponsors a forum series and shows football movies. It exchanges football tickets when the Athletic Association refuses to, helps match students who want rides home with drivers who are going home, and it publishes an extra-curricular activities bulletin. These services give the elected representatives direct, daily contact with the people who elected them. They are also more gratifying to the "political" personality. In fact, short range, social-service activity is the proper function of such an elected council.

But such activity has kept the Student Council from fulfilling completely the job for which it was originally organized. Constant evaluation of the College system is generally unspectacular to the public and is not immediately gratifying to the person who does it. So such long range efforts have been fairly well avoided by the Council. An exception in two counts is the Poskanzer report on Harvard education, which was undertaken by the Council and which received more publicity than any other Council activity last year.

The Council is even organized with long-range research projects in mind. Its constitution provides for four administrative and four research committees. Also, in deference to the fact that elected members may not be willing to do relatively colorless research, the constitution allows the elected body to appoint three members on its own.

But despite its favorable organization and the happy exception of the Poskauzer report, the Student Council still spends the great majority of its time on small, daily services to the undergraduates. Investigations and reports on instruction, housing, advising, and scholarships continue to take a back seat to football movies, ticket exchanges, activities bulletins, and charity collections. Just how the Council can fulfill its secondary, social service function, without detriment to its primary, advisory function, and how it should be organized to do this, will be discussed in tomorrow's editorial.

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