Reviewing the Fainsod Leviathan


Ten years ago, a committee under the late Merle Fainsod, Pforzheimer University Professor, played midwife to a divided Faculty as it gave birth to a system of incorporating student opinion into Harvard's administrative structure.

The Fainsod Committee's recommendations, which followed the Mass Hall takeover and student strike, led to Faculty legislation establishing the Faculty Council, Committee on Undergraduate Education, and Committee on Houses and Undergraduate Life.

Growing student activism in recent months has led some students and Faculty to believe it is time for the powers-that-be at Harvard to give birth once again to a new system of college governance allowing students greater say in University decisions.

The Student Assembly sought to capture that momentum this week by informing administrators in an open "letter of intent" that it will request a thorough review of the College's decision-making system, probably by an ad hoc student-Faculty committee to be appointed next year.

Some assembly members said this week they believe student input into the current system is too decentralized. "We need a more concentrated focus--a representative, elected student group that can draw attention to specific issues and argue our opinions persuasively." Bruce S. Ives '82, one of the assembly members who drafted the "letter of intent", said this week.


Ives added that the assembly has "an understanding" with Dean Fox that "when we formally request the review, he will initiate it."

Although Fox said, "I personally am always willing to consider changes in structure if that seems necessary," he denied he had already agreed to the review. "We have no particular understanding." Fox said.

It is "entirely possible" that if a review is undertaken it will yield changes as broad as those achieved by the Fainsod review a decade ago, Fox added. "Each previous effort at changing the structure has resulted in a system more complicated than the last," he said.