To the Editors of The Crimson:
The Harvard administration is not likely to respect the House committees' and The Crimson's demand to postpone convening the CRR solely because students need more time to decide whether or not to boycott. In their eyes, the CRR is legitimate and therefore a boycott should not be an option to begin with. We must shift the emphasis of the discussion because there are persuasive reasons for the administration to wait.
The House committees in their letter and The Crimson in its editorial identified the short notice the College has given the students as the strongest reason why the CRR shouldn't convene now. More needs be made of the fact that students have not been invited to joint the CRR since 1980, as The Crimson reported on May 10. Under its ordinary procedure, the administration would have asked the House committees to send delegates in the fall. By suspending the invitation, presumably to spare itself the embarrassment of continued rebuff, the administration has de facto imposed the boycott on itself. As a result, the issues surrounding the CRR are new even to seniors.
There are many issues concerning the CRR other than a possible boycott. For example, people have raised questions about the committee's use of hearsay evidence. One action the students might take instead of a boycott is to send representatives with specific instructions to modify this policy. There's a whole range of issues and a whole range of legitimate action that only happens to include not sending any representatives at all.
When people choose representatives to an organization, they need to review what it has done and to suggest changes for the future. This process requires time for education and deliberation, especially when the issues are new. The administration cannot expect the student body to undergo this review process during exam time and still put forward students who have thought-out and representative views.
Student representatives would ordinarily serve for an entire year, without any prior knowledge of the cases they would be sitting on. They would ordinarily be interested in upholding the rights outlined in the Resolution on Rights and Responsibilities that forms the mandate for the CRR. Instead, student representatives we send now would be people interested specifically in judging the two recent protest cases, That alone is enough to exclude someone from a jury in a court of law. It clearly bases the focus of the committee.
Furthermore, these students will have no clear idea of the process they will enter. The Crimson reported on May 10 that even the Faculty members who've been on the committee all year haven't a clue. Such an arrangement may be appropriate for an ad hoc committee convened to deal quickly with an unusual committee. Such committees require clear operating guidelines and a carefully constituted membership.
Ideally, these issues would have been dealt with by the administration, the students and the committee well in advance of the actual protests. As it is now, the administration should be persuaded to wait until the fall before any action is taken. Since the proper mechanisms are not in place, they should not be thrown together hastily. The protesters have a right to expeditious treatment, but they have even more of a right to due process M. Timur Friedman