Let Them Drink Skim


HISTORY continually demonstrates to humanity the transigence of temporal power. How often have our mightiest civilizations and their rulers declined and fallen to the forces of time, unable to sustain the delicate balance of leadership, discipline and innovation that brought them supremacy in their day. Witness the Roman Empire, the ancient Egyptians, or the Aztec civilizations of Mexico. At least we have examples of their grandeur, the writings of their scholars or the monuments and temples, which still leave us in awe of their abilities.

To the list of ancient and faded powers we must add the Undergraduate Council of Harvard College. There are only two problems with the analogy, however. The first is that the council is not actually defunct; it is still recognized as the official organ of representation for the undergraduate population and probably will be for some time to come.

The second problem is that, unlike the Egyptians who left us their pyramids to admire, the council has just had their foremost achievement--that which they were most proud of and which symbolized the most good they had done for the students of Harvard--quietly taken away by those with which the true power lies, the bureaucrats of the University. Of course we refer to the once-proud tradition of chocolate milk, available to every student in each dining hall's dispenser.

Three years ago, the Undergraduate Council fought hard against the insensitive power structure of Harvard, which is so very resistant to change, and brought to us, their constituents, a new beverage. In the absence of the council's ability to either organize rock concerts on campus or convince Harvard that students might want to hear something besides a cappela singing or Bach concerts, and their complete refusal to take stands on such controversial issues as the role of final clubs or university divestment from companies doing business in South Africa, we accepted the chocolate milk. Although it was far from enough, it tasted good.

NOW, the sad day has arrived when the council cannot even be considered the student voice on food-related issues. Harvard Dining Services made a unilateral decision to remove chocolate milk from the front lines of beverage selections to replace it with skim milk--and didn't even think of notifying the council representatives.

Some houses have cartons of chocolate milk available on request, but it feels as though our once-respected freedom of choice has been restricted, and it is probably only a matter of time before even this option is a thing of the past. This is why it sounds as hollow as an empty milk carton when Richard Eisert '88, the former Undergraduate Council Chairman primarily responsible for chocolate milk, says "chocolate milk is still alive and well at Harvard despite its absence from the machines. I think the legacy of our council is intact." The response of the current chairman, Evan J. Mandery '89 was, "I'm slightly disturbed that the matter wasn't brought up with the council, since it's a matter that directly affects students." And therein lies the problem.

After all, in the space of just one four-year class cycle, the council's foremost accomplishment has come and gone. The freshman class eating in the Union today will probably never realize what the council had once done for their kind. They may never know the joy that chocolate milk once brought the students of Harvard, or the faith that we once had in our student representatives in the Undergraduate Council to fight for our right to choose between white and brown milk with our meals. Unlike the Roman Empire, the council is still around. But if the members don't feel empassioned enough to do anything, what good are they?