AS SURELY as January means the coming of exams, a new year meant the return of the CRR debate. Many students here--especially freshmen, most of whom were about six years old when the Committee on Rights and Responsibilities was born--may not know the significance of this annual campus rite. But the CRR is potentially important to all of us, as are the lessons of the committee's troubled history.
The organization that became the CRR was founded in 1969 to punish student demonstrators. A committee of Faculty members, administrators and students, with the power to suspend or expel students, the CRR was organized to make it almost impossible for students to receive fair hearings. It met behind closed doors, accepted hearsay evidence, prohibited appeals outside of itself and did not give students equal representation in its membership. Because of these conditions and because students felt the CRR existed only to stifle political dissent, they boycotted the committee from the outset.
The boycott has been a success. The CRR has not met since 1975, but it has not disappeared either. Each year, Archie C. Epps III, dean of students, still asks House committees and the freshman class to send representatives to the CRR. Last year, South House voted to break the boycott, and there were signs that other Houses might be willing to go along. Supporters of the boycott have said they hoped to reform the CRR from the inside, but this is an ineffective strategy for a body that scarcely ever meets. There were some minimal "reforms" in the CRR constitution four years ago, but experience has shown that the boycott remains the best way to neutralize the committee.
The boycott movement has always supported abolition of the CRR, and students should reaffirm that commitment this year. Over and above its procedural inequities, the CRR offends basic standards of political freedom; the idea that a university should have a political police is abhorrent. We hope the Faculty Council will finally recommend to the full Faculty that this sick dog of an organization at last be put out of its misery. And as for students, the CRR boycott is a proud--and effective--legacy of the years of political activism at Harvard and one that today's students should uphold.