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Council Discusses Improving Contact With Undergraduates

By Jean E. Engelmayer

In an unusually short and uncontroversial meeting the Undergraduate Council last right turned its attention inwards and examined the relationship between council representatives and the rest of the student body.

The organization discussed possible ways increase the accountability of members to their constituents and to heighten the visibility of the council as a whole on campus.

No specific action was agreed upon during the 15-minute discussion, but all members were asked to submit suggestions on improving the council's relationship to the community.

"The council is seen by most students as an amorphous mass," said Vice-Chair Brian R. Melendez '86, adding that members themselves do not make enough of an effort to inform constituents of council activity or solicit suggestions from students.

The council's budget earmarks $700 for "constituent services"--including newsletters for each district and council-sponsored social functions--but this year not a single cent has been spent. Melendez said.

Council Chairperson Gregory S. Lyss '85 suggested that each House delegation organize a "beer and pretzels" bash where students could talk with their representatives.

Other suggestions included encouraging members to write bi-yearly letters to their constituents, making a report of each House delegation mandatory at its House Committee meetings, and encouraging members to take more roll call votes so students can check to see how their representatives voted on controversial issues.

But some members argued that publicity of council actions would not be enough to increase student interaction with the body.

"We have to get people involved by discussing matters that will directly affect them," said Vanessa A. Davila '84, a Leverett House representative.

"Rather than publicizing our activities, we have to inspire students to inform us what they'd like to see us discussing," agreed Adams House representative Jeffrey M. Rosen '86. He said that unfortunately that sort of communication is a tricky thing to get going.

The council also last night heard a letter form University vice President and General Council Daniel Steiner '54 on the controversial scheduling conflict of Commencement with the second day of Shavtion, a Jewish holiday.

In his letter Steiner promised to try to avoid such conflicts in the future and said that the administration considered the matter forthrightly and sensitively before deciding not to reschedule commencement exercises.

The council voted two months ago to ask University officials to reschedule the exercises, which more than 8000 people are expected to attend.

Steiner also pointed out that the large majority of Jewish students would be able to attend morning religious services before Commencement without compromising their religious beliefs, adding that Shavuos was not a "high holiday," or major religious event.

The letter promised to provide on campus housing for the estimated 30 orthodox students and families who would not be able to travel on the day of Shavuos

Members of the council's ad hoc committee on the Administrative Board. Harvard's disciplinary body, also reported that they had sent a letter to College officials suggesting possible changes in the Board's process.

The suggestions included asking the administration to publish a pamphlet about the Ad Board, which the council itself did this year, downplaying the emphasis of senior tutors as the only student advocates on the Board, and integrating the discussion of freshman academic and disciplinary violations with that of upperclassmen. Currently, the Ad Board holds special meetings to discuss problems relating to freshman.

In other action last night, the council voted to allot $500 to co sponsor a March dance at Dunster House, which members said did not have sufficient funds to organize the even itself.

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