Crimson Misses 14 Points of Intellectual Life


To the Editors of The Crimson:

This letter is inspired by three pieces I have read in the past month. David Plotz's editorial convinced me that I need to work on something other than my thesis. As I read your staff editorial February 12, I was reminded of the gratuitous efforts you make to trivialize everything done by the Undergraduate Council.

If your point was that the UC has become a closed group, there was no need to belittle and ignore the many services we do provide. After reading the feature by David Kurnick on the same day, I realized that The Crimson must belittle others only to distract readers from its own failures.

From the title, "Intellectualism in House Life," to the end of the piece, Kurnick has misunderstood much of the story on "Intellectual Life in the Houses."

For those who do not understand the difference between the two titles (including Kurnick), intellectualism in house life is a meeting of the Society of Nerds and Geeks; intellectual life in the houses is a 14-point plan which includes, among other things, house sections, house seminars, speakers series in the houses, student involvement in choosing house tutors and house guests, student participation in Senior Common Room meetings, conversion and better use of house facilities and the affiliation of faculty members with houses.


While Kurnick focuses on the involvement of the Committee on Undergraduate Education, he misses the hard work the Committee on House Life (COHL, a student-faculty committee not part of the UC for those who appreciate accuracy) has done to implement some of the 14 points.

For example, a subcommittee of COHL will soon work on the points which address complaints that students do not support interaction with faculty. Kurnick focused on the complaints about the system rather than the hard work which is being done to improve it.

Had Kurnick gone to the meeting or asked me about the complaints raised by anybody in the article (including the anonymous random graduate--good source, Kurnick), I could have answered all of them. I wrote the proposal. If Kurnick finds people who see flaws in it, shouldn't he ask the person who wrote it to respond?

Kurnick curiously missed a main topic of the 14 points. It was the one entitled "a proposal requiring much discussion. "It still requires much discussion. "It still requires much discussion. What about the idea of having a tenured professor other than the house masters living in the houses, teaching house seminars and participating in house life?

Wouldn't faculty who were responsible, at least in part, to the houses insure that even when other resources are unavailable, the houses will provide a vibrant intellectual atmosphere?

Imagine my surprise when I read what passes for journalism these days at Plympton Street and found that my name was entirely omitted from Kurnick's piece. I have worked on this plan for about one year, writing nearly all of it, and have spent more time working on the plan than I have on my thesis.

Kurnick never mentioned my name, or UC involvement, in his feature--despite speaking to me about it. However, bits and pieces of our conversation did appear in the article without attribution, while some of my work was attributed to something about a 14-point plan written by some guy from Canada.

It is ironic to read a staff editorial complaining that the UC does little for fellow students when we do much more than The Crimson is willing to admit or credit us for.

I realize that I may have gotten credit for the project if I put my name on every page and if I told Kurnick in every second sentence that I wrote the plan, but I am more interested in seeing the plan succeed (albeit after I graduate) Than in getting personal credit. However, when a Crimson reporter calls me and I provide him with information about the plan, I expect to get the credit I have earned.

The Crimson gives yards of column inches to self-important, self-serving publicity hounds (e.g., Jamie Harmon two years ago and Brigid Kerrigan last year) but ignores the people who work hard and don't beg for attention.

Then The Crimson implicitly wonders in its staff editorial why good people don't want to be on the UC. Kurnick's attempt at a feature should provide you answer. UC members face a double bind--if we take credit for our good work, we are showboating; if we don't glorify ourselves, we are the subject of inaccurate, demeaning editorials.

Perhaps The Crimson can atone for its feature error by writing about the 14-point plan now that it has passed the UC. Unfortunately, because such a story would give due credit to the UC. we are never likely to read it in The Crimson. Daniel H. Tabak '92   Former Chair, Residential Committee