When we heard that the Core Review Committee (CRC) was to include students in its ranks, we sighed with relief. In a college where student input into major policy decisions is often limited or nonexistent, the CRC seemed a notable and welcome exception--that is, until the committee met before its student members had been appointed. And the committee's student members still have not been announced.
Two weeks ago, the chair of the committee, Pforzheimer University Professor Sidney Verba '53, said the committee's faculty members had already met. In that meeting, they talked among themselves as well as with a few other faculty members and the Standing Committee on the Core.
Not to worry, however, that the students were not involved in these discussions. As Verba said, "Basically, we have just exchanged our impressions of the Core and have set up some schedules to meet with various groups, such as the subcommittees [on the Core] and other interested parties, including the student committee from the Undergraduate Council."
Yet no matter how small were the details that the committee discussed, meeting without the students--the names of whom have still not been announced--set a poor tone for the review committee's future deliberations. It implied that students' initial opinions, their "impressions of the Core," are not all that important, after all. Scheduling meetings without students present also raises the possibility that the CRC's students may not be able to attend meetings with the Core subcommittees or the Undergraduate Council's student committee on undergraduate requirements. It would be ironic if the students on the CRC could not make it to meetings with their counterparts on the council. After all, it is ultimately Harvard students who will be affected by whatever changes the CRC decides upon.
We feel that students are being given the runaround, especially since the names of those on the committee still have not been announced. Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles said in a fax two weeks ago that he expected to make the appointments "next week." Friday, Knowles' administrative assistant referred an inquiry to either Verba's office or the office of Susan W. Lewis, director of the Core program. Verba was out of town, but his administrative assistant also redirected the query to Lewis' office. Lewis referred questions back to Knowles, saying that she thought the Dean would announce the names this Thursday.
No one in the administration is taking responsibility for the names' being late. And for Knowles' and Verba's offices to refer queries to Lewis is preposterous. Lewis is head of the current Core program and should not have any involvement in choosing students to evaluate the product of her job.
We hold out hope, however, that all of these debacles--holding the first meeting without the students, whose names have not yet been announced, shifting responsibility from one office to another--are mere misunderstandings. We would like to see the student appointments announced, have the committee proceed with extensive student input and put all of this nonsense behind us.