Police Eject Council After 4-Hour Debate

New Constitution, Powell Letter Argued

After four hours of heated debate and parliamentary maneuvering, the Undergraduate Council was ejected yesterday from Sever Hall by Harvard Police.

Members were engaged in a debate over a revamped constitution and a letter addressed to President Neil Rudenstine concerning the choice of Gen. Colin Powell as Commencement speaker.

At 11 p.m., a Harvard security guard entered the council meeting in Sever Hall to close the building. The council did not leave, continuing to argue over the Rudenstine letter, and the guard called the police, who showed up five minutes later.

In what was scheduled to be the council's last meeting of the year, the council considered a rewritten version of the constitution offered by the ad-hoc reevaluation committee.

Committee chair Randall A. Fine '96 billed the draft as a "major overhaul" containing "wide-ranging reform[s]." Since the council did not vote on the proposed consitution or look at the revamped by-laws, coun- cil chair Michael P. Beys '94 called for another full council meeting next Sunday.

If passed, the new constitution would dismantle the present five-committee system and establish only three standing committees: finance, campus life and student affairs. The position of council chair would be renamed "president."


The draft of the constitution was also amended at the meeting to state that a vice president planning to seek an executive office in the fall term cannot supervise the general elections. In such cases, the executive board would appoint a former council member to supervise the election, provided that the member makes a binding promise not to seek a council-wide office in the spring term.

Hillary K. Anger '93-'94 said she sponsored the amendment because the vice chair (or "vice president" under the new constitution) establishes a bond with first-time council members that could constitute a conflict of interest. The vice chair usually notifies incoming members of their election, introduces them to the council and answers their questions.

When the reevalution committee first introduced the package, a few council members attempted to walk out and destroy the quorum of 45 members. The members said they were upset they had so little time to consider such an overhauled document.

Tempers flared as Beys asked those members to stay. At one point, Fine yelled, "Get out! Get out!" to the members at the door.

At 10:45 p.m., the council voted to postpone debate on the constitution and to consider a letter to Rudenstine that "affirm[s] the council's committed support" for the University's stance against the ban on homosexuals in the military.

The letter "urge[s] that students be given a part in the formal process of choosing commencement speakers" and "asks...the administration to take every step possible to discourage and prevent any sort of disruption to this year's Commencement."

Heated argument ensued, and as the meeting approached 11 p.m.--when the council is required to leave Sever Hall--the council voted in favor of the letter. However, the council degenerated into pandemonium as members who opposed the letter shouted for a quorum count and a revote.

Amidst the yelling, some members stormed out and the security guard came in.

Vice Chair David L. Hanselman '94 then conducted a roll call revote on the letter, but the tally fell short of a quorum and the question was moot.

"I am absolutely furious at the actions of some of the council members who were obviously against the letter to President Rudenstine on Colin Powell," said council parliamentarian Adam J. Hertzman '95 in an interview following the meeting.

"These are a number of ultra-conservative council members...tonight they restricted free speech by abusing the rules of parliamentary procedure and blatantly undermining the legitimacy of the council," he said.

According to Hertzman, members did not follow parliamentary procedure by motioning to table, objecting, or calling for a quorum count. Instead, he said, certain council members shouted the chair down.

But Fine said some council members were "ramrodding something down people's throat...[the letter] needed to have a lot more time."

"We should have a good meeting discuss it. We shouldn't have limited it to a few minutes like we did tonight," Fine said