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Students Aid in Nader Probe


Despits confusion, a heavy workload and near physical abuse, the five Harvard and Radcliffe undergraduates who wrote profiles this summer for Ralph Nader appear to be satisfied with their work.

The profiles, released Sunday, review the positions, votes and sources of support of every U. S. Senator and Representative up for re-election this year. Harvard undergraduates wrote 30 of the 485 reports.

"Compared to working for Nader. Harvard is like a vacation in the Bahamas." James B. Witkin 75, said Sunday.

In return for $500 plus housing at a George Washington University dormitory, writers typically finished eight profiles of 20-40 pages each in 14 weeks. Research for a profile included searching periodicals. House and Senate documents and the Congressmen's own newsletters, and interviews with the Congressman, his opponents and Washington lobbyists.

"Nader asked an impossible thing," Evan W. Thomas "73 said. "He asked a lot of fairly intelligent kids who knew nothing about Congress to find out everything about a Congressman in eight days." Thomas, who joined at the end of the summer, did reports on three representatives, including his own, whose administrative aide. Thomas said, tried to throw him out of his office.

"There wasn't enough time to research each piece as much as it should have been." Sven Eric Holmes 73 said. He had pushed successfully at the beginning of the summer to reduce the workload from ten profiles to eight.

Some indicated that disorganization of the project had also hindered the results. Thomas mentioned such logistical problems as lack of telephones and library space, and unnecessary irritation of some sources with multiple calls for information. He added that at the very end of the summer the quality of the reports was being sacrified for a deadline.

"There was nothing worse." Within said, "than coming back at the end of a long, hard day and finding that your letters hadn't been sent out, and your notes had been lost, and what you'd written hadn't been typed up."

The effect of the profiles on the November elections may be further limited by problems of distribution. Though copies of the individual reports are being sold by Grossman Publishers of Washington, D.C. several profile writers expressed doubts as to their potential for impact on the average voter.

The reports had originally been scheduled for release in early October.

"It's a shame they weren't out earlier," Witkin said. "The real question I have is whether the people that need it will read it."

Nader himself may have been part of the problem. "I admire the man more than any person I've ever met, because of his dedication." Holmes said. "But his ability to get along with people and understand human dynamics is very limited."

"It was an attempt to get political muscle in Washington." David R. Ignatius 72.4 said, "both by helping voters to be more critical in assessing candidates and also by making some individual Congressmen afraid that Nader's got their number. Maybe now they'll think twice about voting irresponsibly."

"It makes trouble to have one's votes made public." Gwen E. Kinkead '73 said. "I think stirring up a little trouble can only have good effects."

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