Fainsod Report: Part II The Faculty and the Students

IV. Student Participation In the Decision-Making Processes Of the Faculty

WE TURN next to the role of students in the decision-making processes of the Faculty. In the course of our deliberations we have met on numerous occasions with our student consultants and have also benefited from advice, reports, or testimony from representatives of the Harvard Graduate Student Association, the Harvard Undergraduate Council, the Harvard-Radcliffe Policy Committee, the Student-Faculty Advisory Council, the Radcliffe Union of Students, the Crimson, the Harvard Political Union, the Young People's Socialist League, and individual students who attended our two open meetings. The advice we have received has been helpful, but also diverse. We have been made only too aware that no student organization speaks for all of student opinion. In the words of one of our student consultants, "One must always remember...that the first premise in dealing with representation of Harvard students is that they do not want to be represented, and they feel as bright and articulate as their fellow students, and capable of speaking for themselves."

Joint Student-Faculty Committees at the Faculty Level

IN FRAMING our recommendations we have been particularly conscious of the need to improve the flow of communication and consultation between faculty and students at every level. In some respects Harvard College has been fortunate. The House Plan and the tutorial system provide an infrastructure which makes for relatively easy informal relationships between students and junior teaching staff. But, helpful as these ad hoc contacts have been, we believe that they need to be supplemented by arrangements which will bring students into a closer relationship with the more formal decision-making machinery of the Faculty. We think that such a result can best be achieved through a wider use of joint student-faculty committees which meet at stated intervals to discuss matters of common interest. We realize from our own experience that such committees consume a great deal of time and energy and divert both their student and faculty members from their personal academic concerns. But we would also urge that they can perform a very important function in dissolving mistrust, building mutual understanding, and providing students with avenues of meaningful participation in the life of the departments and the Faculty as a whole.

Before proceeding to our specific recommendations, we should perhaps refer again to the general principles which have guided our thinking about the role of students in the governance of the Faculty. As we pointed out earlier, while we believe that the ultimate responsibility for appointments, degree requirements, and the curriculum must lie with the Faculty, we also think that students have a very important role to play in shaping their social and intellectual lives and the interrelations between them. We believe the Faculty should welcome and encourage student suggestions of ways to enrich their educational experience. We think it essential that channels of communication be provided which not only will facilitate exchanges of views between faculty and students in committees, but will also enable student representatives to present and discuss their proposals in the highest decision-making bodies of the Faculty, including the Faculty meeting itself.

We turn next to our proposals for student-faculty organization at the Faculty level. Our first recommendation is that three joint student-faculty committees be created, the first to deal with undergraduate education, the second with graduate education, and the third, which we view as a successor to SFAC, to be concerned with students and community relations. We contemplate equal student and faculty membership in the first two committees and a larger ratio of student membership in the third committee. Members of the Faculty Council would serve on each committee in order to provide a link with that central body. Each committee would not only have the right to be consulted on matters within its jurisdiction but could also initiate proposals for the consideration of the Faculty Council and the Faculty. Proposals originating in and approved by the joint committees would first be presented to the Faculty Council for its recommendations before being submitted for Faculty consideration. Student members of the joint committees would have full voting rights in these committees. They would also have the right to participate in Faculty Council proceedings when proposals originating in their committees were being considered by the Faculty Council. They would be entitled to be present at Faculty meetings and invited to take part in discussions on matters relevant to the interests of the joint committees, except at those meetings or portions of meetings at which the Faculty may decide that student participation is inappropriate, such as meetings at which degrees and academic honors are recommended. We do not recommend voting rights for students attending Faculty meetings. A few of us, however, are willing to entertain the possibility that within the Faculty as it is now constituted these student participants might vote on issues of proper concern to them.

We suggest that the Dean of the Faculty be named ex officio chairman of all three committees, though we recognize that the burdens of his office may make it impossible for him to attend meetings regularly. In the absence of the Dean, we recommend that the Dean of the College act as chairman of the Committee on Undergraduate Education, the Dean of the Graduate School serve as chairman of the Committee on Graduate Education, and the Committee on Students and Community Relations elect its own vice-chairman.


As we envisage the functions of the Committee on Undergraduate Education, its primary responsibility would be to consider and to initiate studies and proposals to improve the quality of education in Harvard College. Thus, for example, it might concern itself with the operations of the tutorial system, freshman seminars, general education, the grading system, pass-fail, independent study, and other experiments in education for students in Harvard College. While not focusing on specific departmental requirements, this committee would undertake to improve departmental channels of communication between undergraduates and faculty. It would also serve as an advisory body to the Dean of the College and the Dean of Freshmen in connection with the educational functions of the College. We recommend that, in addition to the chairman, the committee be composed of five faculty members named by the Dean of the Faculty from the membership of the Faculty Council, and initially at least, five students designated by the Harvard-Radcliffe Policy Committee and appointed by the Dean. In suggesting initial reliance on the HRPC to designate the student contingent to this committee, we have been greatly influenced by the high quality of past HRPC performance in this area. We recognize, however, the hazards of long-term commitment to any "chosen instrument" to express student views, and we expect that questions of student representation on this and other committees will be subject to continuing review and recommendations by student organizations.

The second joint committee would be the Committee on Graduate Education. As we visualize its functions, it would primarily concern itself with such aspects of graduate education as are general to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and do not fall under the specific jurisdictions of the departments. We have particularly in mind problems and policies with respect to financial aid, scholarships and fellowships, assistantships, teaching fellowships, proctorships, graders, post-doctoral fellowships, placement procedures, graduate housing, graduate social activities, and discipline. We also suggest that this committee be charged with the improvement of departmental student-faculty communication at the graduate level. As we indicated earlier, we recommend that the Dean of the Graduate School serve as vice-chairman of the Committee and preside in the absence of the Dean of the Faculty. We also recommend that the Committee consist of five members of the Faculty Council and five graduate students (of whom at least two shall be teaching fellows) designated by the Dean of the Faculty after consultation with the President and Council of the Graduate Student Association and other appropriate graduate student organizations. Should these organizations express a preference for the election of graduate student representatives, the Dean may call for elections to be arranged by the Graduate Student Association.

The third joint committee, the Committee on Students and Community Relations, is intended to serve as a successor organization to SFAC, to bring its activities into closer linkage with the decision-making bodies of the Faculty, and to define its competence as extending to subjects of student concern involving the relations of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to the community and government. These subjects might include, but not be limited to, admissions and scholarship policy, government relations, the draft, student housing, health and welfare problems, and the University's relations to the community. It should be pointed out, however, that the last subject involves the interests of all of the faculties of the University and should more properly be dealt with in due course by a University-wide body with appropriate provision for student representation. We understand that other committees concerned with the governance of the University are presently considering the establishment of such a body. We believe that it would fill an important need.

It has seemed to us that the membership of the joint committee on Students and Community Relations ought to be larger than the other two joint committees, in order to insure broad representation of student views, but that it ought also to be considerably smaller than SFAC, whose membership of more than 40 appears too unwieldy to permit effective committee discussion and action. We therefore recommend a committee of twenty-one, to be composed, of the Dean of the Faculty, serving as chairman ex officio, eleven student members, and nine members of the Faculty. We suggest that the eleven student members be elected, five from the House on a rotating basis, one from the Freshman class, two from Radcliffe, and three from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, of whom one each shall be chosen by graduate students in the Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Humanities. We also recommend, that of the nine faculty members, to be appointed by the Dean of the Faculty, three be selected from the Faculty Council, and the remaining members be named by the Dean after consultation with the Faculty Council.

The Committee on Houses

WE FIND it useful at this stage to single out the Committee on Houses for special discussion. Our student consultants and indeed all representatives of student organizations with whom we discussed the matter recommended student membership on this committee with particular urgency. In a poll conducted by the Harvard Political Union, in which nearly a thousand students participated, 788 students favored student voting representatives on the Committee on Houses, while only 159 were opposed. Our consultations with the House Masters on this issue evoked mixed reactions. Initially eight of the nine Masters and the Dean of Freshmen joined in a recommendation that students not be given formal voting membership on the Committee on Houses, but suggested instead "that the principle of regular student consultation be stated and acknowledged" and that the Chairmen of the House Committees and the Freshman Dormitory Council be "incorporated into this process of regular consultation." Subsequently, two of the Masters indicated that they favored student representation on the Committee; two others reported that they were not in principle opposed to student membership, but had joined in recommending against it because they believed the addition of students would make the Committee too large and cumbersome.

As we understand it, the Masters are currently divided on such issues as coeducational housing and parietal rules. Some would like to see as much discretion as possible left to the individual Houses to deal with such matters; others look to the Committee on Houses to set guidelines which would be binding on all the Houses. Some are inclined to be much more permissive than others in relaxing existing regulations. Students, on the other hand, overwhelmingly take the view that they ought to exercise much more control over their own living conditions than present regulations permit. In the poll referred to above, when students were asked, "Should students have more of a voice in living regulations?" well over 90 percent replied in the affirmative. We have been informed that a number of the House Committees have approved a resolution which not only requests representation on the Committee on Houses, but which also proposes that "the House Committee of each House and the Freshman Council should be given authority to establish dress requirements in dining rooms, regulate the use of facilities including common rooms, laundry areas, dining rooms, seminar rooms, House libraries, recreation rooms and to establish rules concerning the requirements of good order within their jurisdiction. Further, these bodies should be given the authority to establish regulations regarding visitation by women to college rooms." Without necessarily associating ourselves with all of the particulars of this proposal, we find ourselves sympathetic with its general thrust. We believe there is a valid rationale for the view that the area of decision-making in the University which students have the most right to control is the area involving their own living conditions. We also tend to the view that in this area as much discretion as possible should be left to the membership of the individual Houses, though it should be kept in mind that the House communities include senior as well as junior common rooms, and that both have responsibilities, as well as rights, that may need to be reconciled.

We should also record the views of a number of students and senior common room members that representatives of the House community should be considered when a vacancy in a House mastership is to be filled. This might take the form of a small advisory committee of senior House associates, tutors, and students to be convened by the President. Because of the key role which the Master plays in the life of the House, we believe that this would be a highly useful procedure.

Despite the reservations expressed by some of the Masters, we urge the inclusion of students in the voting membership of the Committee on Houses, because we believe that this is an area in which students have both a strong interest and an important contribution to make. In so far as the Committee on Houses may deal with matters involving restrictions on the autonomy of the Houses, such restrictions are likely to be much more acceptable to members of the individual Houses if they are made by a body in which students as well as faculty have an important voice.

Indeed, we go father and recommend that the scope of the Committee on Houses be expanded to deal with issues of undergraduate concern which do not fall under the purview of the proposed Committees on Undergraduate Education and Students and Community Relations. (We recognize that some overlapping of jurisdiction among the committees may be unavoidable.) We suggest that its name be changed to the Committee on Houses and Undergraduate Life, and that it supplement its present activities by addressing itself to such questions as a review of the Regulations for Students in Harvard College and the procedures and machinery for dealing with infractions of these regulations, rules governing undergraduate organizations, the operations of various offices which supply services to undergraduates, and related matters of particular concern to undergraduates. We also recommend that its present membership be broadened to include ten (and soon eleven) student members, representing each of the Houses and the Freshman Class, these members to be designated by the Harvard Undergraduate Council and appointed by the Dean. We suggest initial reliance on the Harvard Undergraduate Council to supply the student contingent to this committee because the HUC has centered its activities in this area and its members are elected by the Houses and the Freshman Class. We also recommend that the student members of this committee be invited to present their views to the Faculty Council and to attend and participate in Faculty meetings on the same basis as the student members of the three joint committees.

We realize that the addition of the student contingent to the proposed Committee on Houses and Undergraduate Life runs the danger of transforming the present Committee on Houses into a large and unwieldy body, but we would suggest that time may be saved and decisions facilitated by the establishment of a small Executive Committee to prepare and direct the work of the larger committee.