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In a mail referendum the members of the Harvard Cooperative Society have overwhelmingly endorsed a series of by-law revisions proposed by the Coop management to democratize the annual election procedures.
Last month the Coop mailed ballots and explanatory literature to each of the 54,143 Coop members as of Oct. 10. As tabulated by the Cambridge Trust Co., 18,540 ballots had returned by the Nov. 7 cut-off date. Of those, 17,621 supported the changes, while 919 disapproved.
According to the by-laws, a quorum of 25 per cent-13,535-of the members had to vote on the amendments.
"For a while we were afraid not enough members would vote to make it official, but when we saw by the beginning of last week that the changes would go through, we went ahead with plans to implement them," Acting General Manager Al Zavelle said yesterday.
First Changes in History
Essentially the amendments-the first major structural reforms in the 87-year-old company since 1916-are designed to increase the student voice in Coop affairs while assuring stability and equitable representation for all 55,000 members.
Under the revisions students will now hold 11 of the 23 seats on the Board of Directors, instead of their present nine. Non-students (faculty, alumni, and employees of Harvard and M.I.T)will also have 11 seats. The general manager will continue to occupy the 23rd seat in an ex officio position.
Since the Coop is a cooperative society. no one actually "owns" it. There are, however, ten trustee stockholders who keep the company stock in trust and nominate a slate for the board of directors. Under the amendments, five of these non-elective stockholder posts will go to students.
The annual membership meeting has been eliminated in favor of a general election by mail, thus making all members, rather than just faculty and students, eligible to vote. By a system of proportional representation students will vote for students, non-students will vote for non-students.
If a member wishes to run for a seat on the board of directors. he can place his name on the ballot by submitting an endorsement petition with 100 members' signatures. Only if someone challenges the stockholders slate will there be an election. Moreover, a quorum of at least five per cent must vote to make a contested election legal.
No one had ever challenged the stockholders nomination until last October, when a bid to elect an alternate slate fell short by several hundred of attracting a quorum to the annual membership meeting.
Coop president Milton P. Brown 40 Lincoln Filene Professor of Retailing. points to the nearly successful "Coop Coup" as proof that the old by-laws were unworkable and unfair in practice. "We were concerned not only that a small minority could take control, but that it could also have no representation at all." Brown said last month.
Now that the by-law changes have been approved-at a mailing cost ofabout $10,000-the Coop plans to implement them as soon as possible. "Our main concern is getting a functioning board that the community will feel is representative," Zavella said yesterday.
At the stockholders' next meeting, Nov. 17, they will replace five of their nominate a new slate for the board of directors. Charles P. Whitlock, Assistant to the President for Governmental Relations, is chairman of the stockholders' nominating committee.
"This year the timing is such that our alternatives are limited." Whitlock said yesterday. "Before making any recommendations I have been consulting as many people as I can-deans, masters, and the heads of a number of undergraduate organizations. In the future we'll probably figure out some way for students to put names into the election hopper."
After the stockholders make their nominations, members will have two weeks until Dec. 1 to submit petitions. If either the student or non-student seats are contested, ballots will be mailed out Dec. 8 and due back in Cambridge Dec. 18. If the election is not contested, the stockholders' slate will take office Dec. 1. If there is an election, the new board will come in Jan. 1.
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