Undergraduate Council Should Avoid Politics


To the Editors of The Crimson:

The March 12 edition of The Crimson carried an article with the headline, "Council Enters Flag Debate." The article details the Undergraduate Council's decision to send a letter to Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 to ask him "to outline his policy on campus free speech."

The article then goes on to describe an amendment by council member Yared Belai '92 to ask the students involved in the flag debate, Bridget L. Kerrigan '91 and Timothy P. McCormack '91-'92, to take down what Belai deems "offensive symbols." On behalf of the executive board of the Harvard Republican Club, we must warn against this step toward the politicization of the Undergraduate Council and ask that the council refrain from taking a position on the Confederate flag issue.

It is our belief that the Undergraduate Council exists solely to work for the benefit of the students which it represents. This assertion should not be entirely foreign to any council representatives, for the council itself is organized through five standing committees: academics, finance, residential, services, and social.

Each of these committees is based on a common theme: service to students. Nowhere can there be found a provision for a political action committee, or, save for the occasional ad hoc committee or two, any other cause for the council to address political issues. There is quite simply no constitutional justification for the Undergraduate Council to become involved in issues of a political nature.


Political activity should be reserved for other undergraduate organizations and students. Council representatives were not elected to represent their constituents on political issues; this being the case, they should confine their business to student service.

Second, the leadership of the Undergraduate Council should realize that, not only are its excursions into politically charged waters unnecessary, but they are counterproductive to the council's true mission. Not only do debates on political issues take time, energy, and resources away from the council's attempt to improve the quality of student life, but they undermine the credibility (and, therefore, the effectiveness) of the Council.

The Council's stances on issues ranging from the Pittston coal strike to divestment are completely ineffective, and they force students to question the legitimacy of a body which squanders precious time (and student money) on issues over which it has no control. Not only are the council's forays into political issues unjustifiable, then; they are also counterproductive, damaging administrative and student perceptions of the effectiveness of the Council.

If the Undergraduate Council truly wishes to gain students' respect, (the absence of which was best illustrated by the large decrease in student contributions this past fall), it cannot discount the importance of student perception.

It is for these reasons that we respectfully request the Undergraduate Council to refrain from taking a position in the Confederate flag debate. Taking a position on either side of the issue is and should be incompatible with the mission of the Undergraduate Council. It will only serve as a catharsis for those who feel the need to assert their own self-righteousness.

We also request that this letter be read not as an attempt to either defend or attack the hanging of the Confederate flags; the only concern we are addressing in this letter is the desire which many students have: that the Undergraduate Council refrain from any and all political issues and devote its resources to its only mission--service to students. Harry James Wilson '93   David M. Shull '94   Kristen L. Silverberg '92   James L. Doak '94   Harvard Republican Club

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