EVERY ONCE in a while The Crimson receives an angry letter from the Undergraduate Council touting some recent UC-sponsored triumph that we did not cover or that we tucked on some inside page.
The UC, we are told, is slowly but surely making Harvard a terrific place for undergraduates, and The Crimson (along with the relatively high percentage of College students who refuse to fully fund the council) somehow misses the story. Apparently The Crimson also refuses to recognize the important role the UC plays as the official student liaison to the administration.
It's time for such complaints to be put to rest. The Crimson hereby acknowledges the long list of successful cookouts that have made the UC what it is today. We also commend the UC for its hard-fought battle to secure the hot dog option, making frankfurters not just cookout treats but daily staples.
And we must admit that the UC was particularly effective in expressing undergraduates' concerns during last year's presidential search.
The council bravely demanded a single meeting with a few search committee members late in the search process. In fact, the UC fought until it scored a real coup: about an hour with part of the committee (which did not include its top members) in a meeting closed to all other undergraduates and the press.
Now the council has done even more. Last week, the council voted to sponsor a private party (organized by one of its own officers) which will be held tonight at a local bar--and it allocated $20 for publicity of the event.
We are struck by both the stupidity and the unfairness of this move.
AS A REPRESENTATIVE BODY, the UC's job should be to provide students with services and representation before the administration. And we must admit that despite significant and frequent mistakes, the council has not completely failed.
The council has played at least some role in bringing improvements to campus that many students take advantage of--such as expanded shuttle service, lighting in the Cambridge common and, yes, more options at meals.
But sponsoring and financing a private, for-profit party--even in this limited manner--does not serve students' interests well.
The party will be held off campus at a bar that most Harvard students (those under 21) cannot legally patronize, and yet UC funds, which many under-age students help provide, were allocated for the event. (At the council meeting last week, party supporters indicated incorrectly--and perhaps deliberately--that those under 21 would be admitted to the party. But an employee of the bar told The Crimson this week that IDs will be checked and that only legal drinkers will be admitted.)
Most distrubingly, the party is sponsored by one of the UC's own officers, council Treasurer Michael P. Beys '94. Beys and the other organizers are simply using the UC's name to attract Harvard students (who otherwise might not hear about the party) to the $7 event. None of the proceeds--not even the amount of the student-financed grant--will go to the UC or any other needy cause. Beys and his friends will pocket all of the profits.
Beys lamely argues that he and his friends are not just throwing a private party but "bring[ing] a band to Harvard." The little-known band, the "Spin Doctors," surely won't draw a wide student audience.
More important, by lending its name and publicity money to one of its own, the council gives the small, non-representative group an unfair advantage in promoting its money-making venture.
In the political vernacular, it's called a boondoggle, similar to the U.S. Congress' allocating taxpayer money for, say, Sen. Jesse A. Helms's next birthday party--and then telling taxpayers they are invited, if they can afford it. Playing favorites with endorsements and cash simply does not serve the larger community.