THE CONSTITUTION for a new student government that undergraduates are voting on this week is the best proposal for organizing student action to be put forth as a realistic alternative to the existing student-faculty committees since those committees were set up in 1969. Although clearly no panacea for problems that plague the University, the Constitution could help end the total lack of organization that has undermined recent efforts to oppose the University on major issues. The convention's blueprint for a student government could improve the status quo, and no other group has seriously offered an alternative. For these reasons, we urge students to vote to ratify the Constitution.
While there can be no guarantee that the proposed assembly will be able to convince the Faculty and the administration to yield to it, the government, at the very least, would be able to speak for students as a whole and thereby undercut the all-too-frequent justification for completely ignoring student opinion: "We didn't know what students wanted so we made the decision ourselves." The proposed Constitution is a blueprint for a highly responsive student government--provisions for recall of officers, frequent polling of student opinion, grass-roots meetings between representatives and their constituents, student initiative of referendums binding on the assembly, and the formation of ad hoc study commissions within the assembly on any issue students feel strongly about--will facilitate the kind of student activism on proposed University policies so sorely lacking today.
In view of the entrenched student apathy and the increasingly conservative attitudes of Harvard students, we think the convention members have chosen a delicate and appropriate path between what is desirable and what is pragmatic. It is a fallacy to believe student assemblies are inherently conservative, for they must--to a large extent--represent the views of the students themselves. The problem does not lie in the parliamentary institution itself, but rather in the political outlook of those the institution represents.
The convention set the needed vote total for the Constitution's ratification at half the number of undergraduates--over 3100 votes--to ensure that any government will have broad-based support. We urge every student to vote in the election. Collective action depends on compromise--without it you get a stalemate. This stalemate has gone on for far too long. It's time to bring it to an end. Peter Tufano, Erik J. Dahl, J. Wyatt Emmerich, Eric B. Fried, Gideon R. Gil, Stephen A. Herzenberg, Roger M. Klein, Mathew H. Lynch, Amy B. McIntosh, Francis H. Straus III and Michael E. Silver.