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Dust to Dust


Examination of the activities of the Harvard Student Council at its weekly meetings convinces the observer that these talkative politicians have little discernible reason for continuing to exist and that the abolition of the Council would be a good thing. Its members come together on the second floor of PBH, wait forty-five minutes until a quorum is gathered, and discuss lunches with the Dean, the formation of the Motorscooter Club, and whether or not a certain member should be allowed to change his vote. Frequently, Council members themselves realize that they have little purpose, and ask agonizingly, "are we just the errand boys of Dean Watson?"

The fact is that the Student Council does not have a real purpose which could not be assumed by a more effective and less presumptuous body. The idea of student government at Harvard is an anomaly; most student organizations are mature and responsible, capable of handling their own affairs, more capable, usually, than the Student Council is of handling its own. The Administration realizes this, and keeps a rein on the Council when it tries to "really do something for the student body" by exerting control over another student organization, e.g., the Young Republican Club. The few instances of organizational misbehavior could be handled by the Administration quite capably and fairly without the Student Council.

Nor would the student body itself suffer if the Council should disband. To most students, it is an unrepresentative body which annoys them yearly for funds, an annoyance which becomes more frequently ignored with each passing year of fruitless debate. Students do not attend its forums on scholarships, travel, or the National Student Association--that troublesome organization about which the loudest Council debate always settles. Furthermore, students have little interest in what the Council is doing: revisions of its own procedure in meetings and elections often bring the feeling that the Council might well revise itself out of existence and bring greater happiness to all.

The only apparent reason for maintaining the Council's existence is the fact that it assigns people to write reports for it. Some of these have been well planned and written, and though not based on scientific polls, have had merit. Too often, however, the reports turn into the opinions of the three or four men who are writing them, and little attempt is made to divine general undergraduate opinion. Reports could be much better executed under a special student committee chosen by the Masters and Senior Tutors. This committee would include at least one person who has taken a survey methods course, and at the request of the Administration or a few students, would take a scientific survey and write well-planned reports representative of student views. These would be prepared without discussion of censuring clubs, haggling over changes in procedures, and doubt as to its purpose.

With the establishment of such a committee, all need for the Student Council would disappear. And since many on the Council, as well as most in the student body, seem to feel that this would be a good idea, a referendum to abolish the Council should be the Student Council's next--and, hopefully, last--project.

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