Acting in blatant defiance of student opinion, Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 last week formally announced his decision to randomize the housing lottery system. The outgoing dean's last significant action has inspired an almost unanimous protest from an undergraduate population as diverse as the Houses which Jewett would create. The consensus of the College community holds that such social engineering is neither desirable, nor effective. Randomization, therefore, should not be instituted.
Our support for student choice in the housing lottery is by no means a solitary voice. The chorus of campus organizations opposing the decision is wide-ranging in perspective and background. While the Undergraduate Council, for one, has not yet resolved to oppose randomization, it certainly will if it is to have any future as a viable political outlet for the student body. Its recent poll of undergraduates found that 81 percent of students favored ordered or non-ordered choice over randomization. Such a statistic is consistent with the Harvard Independent's finding that 82 percent of the College is averse to randomization.
The president of the Civil Liberties Union at Harvard is opposed to Dean Jewett's decision. So is the Harvard Black Register, which in its first edition has offered the opinion that "Randomization will spread minorities throughout the campus, preventing them from congregating and all but disintegrating their sense of community." This same argument has been presented by representatives of many groups, including those of the artistic community who are concerned with the possible disintegration of collaborative theater productions.
The qualm of Jewett, administrators and House masters with the current arrangement is that it permits a range of self-segregation: athletes comprise an inordinate proportion of Mather and Kirkland; Asians dominate Quincy House; various Quad houses have percentages of Black students above their relative numbers in the College; and the Eliot-Winthrop-Kirkland grouping has come to be known as the "White Triangle."
Yet within the present structure, each person chooses to live amongst people with whom he or she feels most comfortable. It is a fairly utilitarian compromise that satisfies most students and even the majority of House masters. Jewett's opinion alone is dictating campus policy, at least in this instance. Yet this diversity by flat won't fail for its undesirability alone. The goals of randomization are unfeasible.
As must be recognized from the special-interest congregations of first-year students eating at the Union, even forcing people to live together will not ensure or even facilitate interracial or cross-interest friendships. Integration cannot be coerced in real way. Camaraderie arises on its own terms. And though Harvard differs from the real world, it cannot manipulate human social relations.
The decision he has made is unpopular, Jewett concedes. So his conclusion must therefore derive from some false notion of leadership, a quality incumbent to effective administration but which, in this case, has been applied in a misguided manner. For randomization will have little effect on campus diversity. It will simply splinter groups that otherwise lack common meeting places.
Student's opposition to Dean Jewett's eleventh-hour decision has been conveniently buried in the Reading Period crunch. So what can students do now to object to Jewett's decision to randomize the housing lottery system?
.Attend the Fight Randomization Rally to be held on Tuesday, May 23, at 12:45 p.m. It will be help by statue of John Harvard.
.Write a letter to Dean Jewett. Address the correspondence to 4 University Hall, Harvard College. (The University Mail system is free.)
.Call the Dean at 5-1555, or fax your message to him at 6-8268.
.Sign one of the petitions now circulating in the dining halls.
If installed, Mr. Jewett's neighborhood will prove to be a fractured farce, a false construction imposed on a University that otherwise grants its students a great deal of freedom. The residents of this community thoroughly detest the new arrangement, in part because they realize the impossibility of the desired outcome. By randomizing the houses in such a hostile environment, Dean Jewett has dismissed undergraduate protest as immature self-interest. Randomization, the Great Leap Forward for the social engineers here, should be revoked.