Your Rights, Our Responsibilities


THE COMMITTEE on Rights and Responsibilities is like an earthworm: No matter how many times you hack off its head, it just grows back.

Undergraduates have only a hazy notion of what the CRR actually does, and how it began. The CRR grew out of the Committee of 15, an ad hoc committee of students and faculty elected to handle about 150 cases arising out of the April 1969 occupation of University Hall. After the Faculty approved the prosecution of those cases in June 1969, it also sanctioned an interim Resolution on Rights and Responsibilites. The following fall, the Committee of 15 appointed six of its members to a temporary CRR, handed it the temporary Resolution, and told it to get to work.

For most of that fall and into the spring of 1970, the CRR enjoyed a precarious legitimacy. The three student members of the committee, all moderates, cautiously continued to serve after the new Resolution was modified in October 1969. The Faculty then drastically revised the Resolution in March 1970, sending the moderates into full flight and ending any chance of pacifying the alienated left.

Rejection of the CRR became a legacy that was handed down from one class to the next. Incoming freshmen soon learned of the repressive nature of both the Resolution and the committee set up to implement it. After the three student moderates resigned, no other students would consent to serve on the CRR. Subsequent attempts to hold elections met with outright resistance.

The last formal effort to elect student CRR members came in 1971; students have declined twice since, through University-wide referenda, to elect representatives to the committee. The last canvas of undergraduates in the fall of 1971 showed no interest in the CRR at all.


The CRR has two things on its side in 1973--time and ignorance. The senior class entered the University at the same time that the CRR was born, but the class of '74 missed the '69 strike that created the demand for a disciplinary body like the CRR. Other classes operate with even less of a political framework.

Sophomores and freshmen immediately accept the idea of a student-faculty disciplinary body. It seems, at first glance, that a process which permits students to judge themselves is fair. But the administration has handed the students a stacked deck. Only four students serve on the CRR; seven faculty members watch over them.

Since the March 1970 Resolution was adopted, the CRR has operated without student representatives. Students brought before the CRR faced faculty members--not their peers--and a process of justice that would shock the most conservative jurist.

The March 1970 Resolution allows the CRR to hold closed hearings and admit hearsay evidence. If the CRR finds a student guilty, it may require the student to withdraw. Although the student cannot appeal, the student can ask the committee to rehear the case. In other words, the committee hears appeals on its own decisions.

The concept of the original Resolution was broad, based on defining the rights and responsibilities of all members of the University. It stressed the importance of freedom of speech and academic freedom. At the same time, it said that the administration had a responsibility to be responsive to student and faculty demands for change, directing the administration "to maintain an atmosphere in which violations of rights are unlikely to occur." This reciprocal relationship among students, faculty and administrators was vague at best, but at least it existed.

The March 1970 version and subsequent amendments severed the reciprocal relationship. An April 1970 amendment made "intense personal harassment of such a character as to amount to grave disrespect for the dignity of others" a violation requiring punishment. The CRR was left to judge what "intense harassment" meant.

STUDENTS TOLD administrators that the new resolution made clear it was now "your rights and our responsibilities." But student opposition to the CRR never bothered the majority of the Faculty. When Quincy House became one of the first Houses in 1971 to refuse to participate in the CRR election, CRR chairman James Q. Wilson commented that the decision meant Quincy was "forfeiting student influence" in the CRR. Clearly, Wilson did not care whether students participated in disciplining themselves. The CRR would proceed with or without student members.

And proceed the CRR did. Last year, the administration resigned itself to student hatred of the CRR, and made no attempt to hold student elections. Two weeks ago, however, Dean Whitlock whipped off a seemingly perfunctory note to the 13 House committee chairmen. The note asked them to nominate students for the CRR, and explained the long, complicated procedure set up by the Resolution.

The note made no mention of past opposition to the committee, and Whitlock did not include a copy of the Resolution. A survey by The Crimson of the House committee chairmen revealed that some did not know what the CRR did.

The CRR of today is the same as the CRR students boycotted on the past. The same unfair Resolution governs its activities, the same unfair ratio of students to faculty governs its composition. Not until the Faculty reforms the CRR will it find acceptance among Harvard undergraduates, and then only if the reforms delineate a reciprocal set of rights and responsibilities. The present CRR is an anachronism that merits no support. Student members would make respectable an illegitimate and ill-conceived committee of injustice.