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Letter Imperfect


Dean Watson's long-awaited letter, to the Students Council, giving the whys and wherefores of the new rules for undergraduates organizations, will reach its destination tonight. But the reasons which, it offers for the Faculty Committee's overriding of Council recommendations are not calculated to settle the issue, since they are based on the current administration philosophy of restriction and surveillance which is hostile to the ideals of a free Harvard education.

Throughout Dean Watson's letter runs the theme of protection--protection of the College's "good name," protection of a group from its own "irresponsible management" or from misrepresentations by non-members. This doctrine of protections is one that deserves careful scrutiny.

The special supplementary rule for new publications provides an example of this philosophy at its worst. The rule states that any group which wishes to begin a new publication, must, in addition to fulfilling the requirements common to all new groups, submit a statement of its "financing, circulation, authorship, contents, and policy to give assurances that it is a Harvard students enterprise and financially responsible." Last December the Council recommended that this extra requirement be deleted on the grounds that it was redundant: there are, in fact, specific rules, elsewhere in the booklet that are entirely sufficient to cover both these potential dangers. Watson and the Faculty Committee are afraid that outsides powers will dominate the policies of a new publication; but have they considered the very first rule in the booklet? "Recognized organizations must maintain their local autonomy. The criterion for local autonomy shall be whether the college organization make all policy decisions without obligations to any parent organization." Surely this is sufficient? Likewise with the fear that a new publication may be financially irresponsible. There is already an over-vigilant requirement in the administration's own rules stating that, to gain recognition, a new group must submit "reasonable evidence of its ability to meet its financial obligations."

But Watson, in presenting the Committee's case for retaining the publication rule, fails entirely to discuss this point. He adds only one new "argument" that twice since 1940 the Dean's Office has stamped out a publication that seemed to be subject to one or the other of these weaknesses. This calling to mind of past Dean's Office practice does not, of course, prove that this practice was proper; but it does serve to indicate why University Hall is so worried as to want to control new publications more rigidly than other new groups. The specter of the "New Student" and its radical opinions (which did the beautiful name of Harvard no good, presumably) hangs over the new stricter rules for publications.

But this is only one unsatisfactory section of a generally unsatisfactory letter of explanation. It has failed to answer adequately four other Council recommendations--making it optional for organizations to leave their membership lists in the Dean's Office files, allowing outdoor meetings in the Yard, permitting joint meetings with outside groups, and requiring Dean's Office permission for trips outside Cambridge. Furthermore the two most important changes proposed by the Council last December--ending Harvard restrictions on the admission of Radcliffe girls and eliminating the rule requiring evidence of financial soundness from new groups--were ignored altogether.

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