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Student Government- Is There Anything Left?

By Michael E. Kinsley

Harvard College's three student government organizations, never overly influential, face the problem of having nothing left to justify their existence if the proposals of the Fainsod committee are accepted by the Faculty.

The report of the Committee on the Organization of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, released last Friday, recommends setting up three new student-Faculty committees and putting students on many existing committees. These committees appear to usurp all the duties and what little powers the Harvard Undergraduate Council, the Harvard-Radcliffe Policy Committee, and the Student-Faculty Advisory Council ever had.

The SFAC is the only student organization whose future is dealt with specifically in the report. The report recommends it be replaced by a Committee on Students and Community Relations with 11 students and ten Faculty members. The present SFAC has over 40 members and no discernible power. SFAC president Frank D. Raines '71 said last night, "This is a step forward. Right now we can do anything we want, which means we can't do anything, really."

Lawrence R. DiCara '71, prominent student politico, said, "The SFAC is like prune juice. Nobody wants it and it just gets in the way."

The report also recommends setting up a student-Faculty Committee on Undergraduate Education to "consider and initiate studies and proposals to improve the quality of education in Harvard College."

Donald Gogel, chairman of the HRPC, said,

"This effectively usurps everything we do except the departmental audits. And even there, many academic departments are setting up autonomous undergraduate advisory committees that make our job as watchdog unnecessary. It's hard to see anything the HRPC's done in the past that will continue."

The HUC would seem to be similarly usurped by the proposed Committee on Houses and Undergraduate Life. But HUC president John D. Hanify '71 insists his organization will be more powerful than ever. "Without autonomous student groups, there is a danger of co-option," he said.

The report gives the HUC power to appoint the initial student members of the Committee on Houses and Undergraduate Life. It says nothing about later selection of students on this committee or selection of students for most of the other committees.

Hanify believes the HUC should and assumes it will be given the power to appoint the students to serve on these committees- picking most of these students from its own ranks. Hanify said. "Many of these committees are not so crucial that members need to be elected. I think this is the first time we've had any real power."

Other student leaders strongly disagree. HUC- member DiCara said. "I hope all students on these committees will be elected at large. This is the only way to get student confidence. I would say that as Joe Student I have no faith in the HUC. It could be controlled by seven or eight people, and I've always said "All power to the people."

Raines also prefers elections to appointment. "I can't see us just appointing ourselves to these committees," he said.

Gogel, whose HRPC would be able to "designate" the first student members on the Committee on Undergraduate Education, said, "As far as I'm concerned, we ought to 'designate' these people by holding a University-wide election."

Indeed, while the HUC is perennially the least effective student group, its seeming successor, the Committee on Houses and Undergraduate Life, could easily become the most effective of the new committees.

A Housemaster said last night that many "revolutionary" changes in student life- such as abolishing the remnants of parietals and dress codes- have been prevented by one or two committee members because of the way the Committee on Houses does business.

COH Blocks Change

"The COH rarely votes," he explained. "We operate on the Harvard Gentleman system which finds voting rather vulgar. We only act if there is a consensus- which one or two members of considerable seniority often prevent. Having students on the committee would change all that. The majority of thinking Senior Common Room members want change: I've found the lack of students a positive embarrassment."

Merle Fainsod. Carl H. Plorzheimer University Professor and author of the report, said. "I don't think we've really faced up to the problem of the role of these student organizations. We decided not to consider the form student government should take. This is up to the students. We didn't want to seem to be paternal."

No Purpose

The problem of course, is that without power over student life- all of which lies with the Faculty and administration- student organizations serve little purpose. Hanify wants Fainsod's group to continue operating for several months to find ways to strengthen existing student government groups. He sees the HUC, HRPC, and revised SFAC forming a new student senate with direct access to the Faculty docket.

Raines and Gogel disagree. "My hope would be that we wouldn't have any more student government except on the House level." Raines said. "In light of the powers given to these new groups. the HUC and HRPC would just be superfluous."

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