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Rule Change For Political Clubs Asked

By Hendrik Hertzberg

Dean Watson indicated yesterday that he would be receptive to suggestions for changes in the University rule which requires undergraduate organizations, including political clubs, to keep membership lists permanently on file in his office.

Four political groups--Tocsin, the Liberal Union, the World Federalists and the Socialist Club--will submit a joint proposal today for consideration at tomorrow's meeting of the Faculty Committee on Student Affairs, of which Watson is chairman. The plan would permit organizations which so desire to substitute lists of officers and statements that all regulations were being observed for the membership lists.

Watson met with representatives of the four groups yesterday. Although he did not endorse any specific proposal, he said he "would have no objection, to destroying membership lists of political clubs after they are out of date." The groups hope for this as a minimum change.

Lists Confidential

Watson emphasised that the lists are kept "so confidential that only Dean Monro and I can see them." But he conceded that if membership lists were ever subpoenaed, "the University would have no choice but to release them."

Under the proposed change, membership lists would be kept by the organizations themselves, but would be available to the Deans in emergencies.

The last time the membership list provision was protested was in 1952. At that time, three pro-Soviet groups, the John Reed Club, the Young Progressives, and the Harvard Youth for Democracy disbanded after the Faculty Committee decided against changing the rule.

Watson said the lists serve three main purposes. First, they protect the clubs against being taken over by outsiders; second, they simplify administration, as when club members who are not officers come in to reserve rooms; and third, they protect the rights of insurgent members whom unscrupulous club officers might try to disenfranchise. But he added that he is open to any proposal which could serve these purposes by other means.

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