IT COMES as no surprise that the Dowling Committee's recommendations for restructuring College governance grant little more decision-making power to students than they already have. The proposal amounts to little more than bureaucratic maneuvering--a placating tactic which the administration has always been adept at when students have demanded change.
But to dismiss the Dowling Committee report as "meaningless" would be to pass up an opportunity to increase student input into decisions that directly affect them. Under the present system, the student voice is diffused, channeled into a handful of unrelated committees that rarely sound their ideas off the entire student body and into a Student Assembly that the Faculty does not even officially recognize. But by mandating that all undergraduate committee members be drawn from a student council, the proposed system allows for more organized and unified--and, therefore, representative--student government. Because student committee members would report back to the council, that body could act to check overlap in committee topics of discussion. And, perhaps, the establishment of a recognized council might force the Faculty to take student opinion more seriously.
We, too, are struck by the limitations of the Dowling Committee proposal; and we continue to be outraged by the lack of formal student opinion in most University decisions--from investment policy to toilet paper. But we realize that while marching in the streets to protest Harvard's irresponsible stance on its South-Africa-related investments is effective in conveying student opinion, demonstrations are unlikely to provide a pass/fail option in the Core or to bring about calendar reform. These types of decisions will always be made bureaucratically, and students must become as influential as possible within these channels as well as outside of them.
The Dowling Committee proposal provides such a chance, limited though it may be. The inefficiency of the present bureaucratic structure forces students to spend too much time arguing in committees about comparatively mundane issues--time that could be spent worrying about changing some of the larger problems here. If nothing else, the Dowling Committee report offers a more efficient bureaucracy, one more likely to effect change--and less likely to sap students energy.
So we say take the money--and the new structure--do as much as possible with it, and make it work.