Text of Dowling Committee Report

I. Introduction

The Committee to Review College Governance was appointed in the Spring of 1980 by the Dean of the College. John B. Fox, Jr. The Committee was asked to determine both the strengths and the weaknesses of the present system of College governance at Harvard and to consider any reforms that might improve the quality of College life.

The initiative for this review came from the Student Assembly which in requesting the review wrote the following. "Student participation in College governance needs to be better coordinated and more directed. Harvard undergraduates need a representative student government to help accomplish these goals and to speak as a voice for student concerns. These needs can only be satisfied if the current system of College governance is reformed and if the revised structure includes a representative student government."

The present system of College governance was established largely by the Fainsod Committee in 1969, which recommended the establishment of both the Faculty Council and the two major undergraduate-faculty committees--The Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE) and the Committee on Houses and Undergraduate Life (CHUL)--that function today. These two student-faculty committees. CUE and CHUL, have been in existence for just over ten years. It is thus a propitious time to review their effectiveness.

The Student Assembly recommended, and Dean Fox agreed, that the Review Committee consist of eight members--four students and four faculty--drawn as follows:


One undergraduate member of the Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE)

One undergraduate member of the Committee on Houses and Undergraduate Life (CHUL)

Two undergraduate members of the Student Assembly

One faculty representative to the Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE)

One House Master

One member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, to serve as Chairperson

The Committee met fourteen times between May, 1980 and March, 1981. We first reviewed the present system of College governance involving undergraduates including the House Committees, the Freshman Council, CUE, CHUL, the Student Assembly, and the various College and University standing committees that have student representatives. Contrary to popular opinion, we found that a very large number of students are involved in some form of College governance. For example, we estimate that between 300 and 500 undergraduates participate weekly in House Committee meetings, approximately 100 students serve on Standing Committees of the University and other advisery groups and another 150 students are involved in CUE, CHUL, the Student Assembly and their various subcommittees. It is true that there is some overlap in that one student may serve on several committees. Nevertheless, the total number of students concerned with governance matters at Harvard is impressive, and we wonder if other universities have as high a percentage.

We next turned to a consideration of the problems recognized or perceived as impeding more effective student participation in governance matters at Harvard. Eight major concerns were identified, including the lack of effective communication between the various governance committees and students-at-large in any one year and between years; the lack of a suitable undergraduate forum for discussion of University-wide issues; the overlap of responsibilities between the various governance committees: the present fragmentation of college governance; the variable and sometimes erratic election or selection procedures for various governance and standing committees; the problem of funding of student government and other student organizations and the need for improved mechanisms to insure a strong student voice in decision-making processes within the College, especially those that deal with student life.

Our attention was focussed [sic] for the majority of our remaining meetings on these concerns and how student governance at Harvard might be organized to help solve them. We propose, in this report, a plan that we believe will improve student governance at Harvard. It builds on present strengths and provides an organizational framework for student government presently lacking. In short, we suggest that a Student Council become the central student governance structure positioned between the students-at-large and the student-faculty committees. Representatives would be elected to the Council from the Houses and the Freshman Class to participate in the activities of five working committees that would deal with educational policy, social and residential affairs, student services, and communications. Representatives from the educational policy, residential and student services committees would participate in three student-faculty committees including CUE and two committees that we suggest replace CHUL.

II. Existing Undergraduate Committees Involving Governance