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Undergraduate Council Starts


Following along process which angered some and put to sleep more, Harvard's new Undergraduate Council is set to get off the ground this fall, with proponents hoping that the funded, centralized structure will resurrect interest in student government which for many years has been dormant.

Although the council, is comparable in size to the ill-fated Student Assembly which preceded it (about 90 seats based on one per 75 students in the Houses and districts of the Yard), there are some major differences.

*Most significantly, the government will have a budget. With money collected from student term bills, the council should be able to pay for an office and part-time secretary and return about two-thirds of the funds to various campus organizations in need.

The rest of the money may be spent on campus-wide social events. Although the treasury should start with at least $40,000 and perhaps close to $60,000, the exact amount will remain unclear until after it is determined how many students ask for the optional refunds.

* Also, the council will place members on three student-faculty committees dealing with education, housing and undergraduate life; the government will also place students on Faculty standing committees.

Elections will be coordinated by House committee chairmen and the dean of students' office, and should take place in early October. Some deans are expecting contested elections with high turnouts similar to the first set of elections for the former Student Assembly four years ago, when there were twice as many candidates as available seats.

But in addition to confronting successfully the traditional problems of lack of interest and the allure of more successful organizations, the council will have to hurdle some initial student resentment toward the structure.

A number of students complained last spring that the new council's constitution had been ratified almost by accident; with two-thirds approval and a 50 percent turnout needed for ratification, the constitution only passed the second barrier because "no" voters had pushed the turn-out level past the halfway mark. These opponents bemoaned that if they had all abstained instead, the government would have failed.

The desire for special seats for minority groups on the council delayed the government until this fall, instead of last spring as originally intended. The Faculty refused to accept a government with minority representation, and the student constitution committee eventually decided that a funded, "unrepresentative and unfair" council was the only alternative available to them.

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