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THE idea that Harvard undergraduates ought to be exerting substantial influence on most major University decisions is respectable as well as appealing. "We are entering an uneasy period in Student-Faculty relations," former Dean of the College John U. Monro said last year; "there is no question but that we should have a greater undergraduate voice in running the College." But the mechanism for mobilizing that voice remains a mystery.
The Harvard Undergraduate Council, born with the Harvard Policy Committee after the dissolution of the lightly regarded Harvard Council on Undergraduate Affairs in 1965 hasn't done the job. "The HUC has probably become irrelevant," Lawrence M. Lawrence, a former member says--"there was so much hope in the early fall--of ending parietals and forcing the University to disclose the nature of all its financial investments--and now there are only ashes."
Lawrence thinks that the HUC's major failure this year was its inability to capitalize on anti-war sentiment here. By any yardstick, the HUC's achievements in the past three years have been meagre. Four more hours of parietals weekly, but what else? Though the HUC regularly sends expressions of student opinion to the Deans and Faculty, it has shared none of the HPC's success in gentle persuasion politics.
The HUC's sickliness extends to its internal affairs. Outgoing Chairman Daniel B. Magraw Jr. '68, has admitted that he doesn't know how much money the organization has collected or spent this year. He blames the financial mess on secretary-treasurer John D. Kelly '68. Kelly claims to have been conscientious in financial matters, but by midterm he had been relieved of his duties as secretary.
A small committee worked on plans for restructuring the organization throughout December, but the HUC never held a meeting in January. So a new set of members will take over with structural reforms still hanging somewhere in the future. Two Junior members of the old HUC are sharply critical of the group. "The HUC's effectiveness was not hampered by lack of popular support," Thomas J. Shields '69 says; "no one stopped us from forming policies--we just didn't." And James A. Cooney '69 calls the HUC, "nothing but a poorly attended open seminar."
Prescriptions for the organization vary, but there is unanimity on one point--the HUC must stake out-a section of the decision-making turf for its own. Conceding academic matters to the HPC, University-Community issues to the Student-Faculty Advisory Council, the HUC is left only with such well-worn or trivial topics as parietals, inter-house dining, and house athletics.
At least for the present, the HUC can't escape comparison with the more effective HPC. Dean Ford has set up a committee of House Masters and HUC members to study parietals, and hopefully come up with "the same kind of advice the HPC was able to give on pass-fail." And Dean Glimp would like to see the HUC do an HPC-style audit of the Office of Graduate and Career Plans.
Magraw has argued that students ought to be represented on Faculty Committees like the Committee on Houses and the CEP. He also feels that the HUC should absorb some of the activities of "a plethora of organizations [the CRIMSON, PBH, SDS] all fulfilling functions which are in the domain of student government." Glimp calls the first of these suggestions "unrealistic," and the second is impossible to legislate formally.
Magraw's third proposal which would reform HUC election procedures, has broad support. At present the chairman of each house committee, one student chosen by each committee, and four freshman elected by the Freshman Council fill the 22 seats on the HUC. None of the members are directly responsible to the constituency they supposedly represent. If students vote at all in House committee elections, they are probably looking for those best qualified to run dances, not to represent them on the HUC, and one of the organization's problems has been the frequent absorption of members in the affairs of the house committee they run. The alternative, which Magraw, Cooney, and Shields support, is to elect HUC members in the Housewide elections, and the HUC chairman in a college wide election--though the potential enthusiasm for student political campaigns is unproven.
Magraw says Dean Ford did not consult the HUC when he formed the Student-Faculty Advisory Council. Many HUC members point to that incident indignantly as an example of the Administration's lack of respect for the organization. But the Advisory Council could be the best thing to ever happen to the HUC; it challenges the HUC's status as Harvard's student government, and the threat to its survival may force the HUC to make itself something more than a College-wide house committee.
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