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Reserved Seats

Minorities Seek Representation

By Alan Cooperman

The committee drafting a constitution for a new student council was battered from all sides this week, as minority groups and Faculty members clashed over the volatile issue of special minority seats on the council.

On Thursday, members of three minority organizations--the Asian-American Association (AAA), the Black Students Associations (BSA), and the Gay students Association (GSA)--issued statements demanding special representatives on the new council and warning that they would oppose the council's formation without such representation.

The BSA statement, made by Vada Hill '81-4, was partially retracted yesterday by BSA president Gaye Williams '83, who said her organization has not yet formulated its official position on the council. The GSA students' statement also was toned down by GSA president French Wall '83, who said gay and lesbian students want "some kind of guarantee" that they will be represented on the council, but that something less than full voting membership might be acceptable.

Before the partial retractions were made, a backlash against the minority demands had already begun. Student Assembly officers said a majority of undergraduates might not ratify the council's constitution if it contained a controversial minority representation clause. And in a meeting yesterday with leaders of the constitutional drafting committee, Archie C. Epps III, dean of students, and John E. Dowling '57, professor of Biology, argued that special seats for minorities would "violate the spirit" of the Dowling Report.

Although the students and Faculty members on the Dowling Committee discussed minority seats at length, they could not agree on the issue and ultimately made no recommendation either for or against such seats.

Dowling now says the lack of a recommendation was a decision against special minority seats. At yesterday's meeting, he and Epps argued that special seats would encourage minority students not to run for the council and would work against "the principle that the council represents individuals, not groups."

Epps and Dowling also took exception to the complex procedures that the 30 students on the constitutional drafting committee have designed for disbursing the council's funds to students activities. They called the proposed procedures--modeled on the system at the University of Pennsylvania--"a classic conflict of interest" because student organizations would collectively decide which of them gets how much of the council's money.

The students at the meeting said that they would "seriously consider" Epps' and Dowling's views, but that the final decision would rest with the constitutional committee, which is slated to meet again Monday.

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