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Dean Lewis Proves to Be a Hypocrite


It's rare that the College sees such an obvious show of hypocrisy from the administration as we did last week.

Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 recently criticized members of the Undergraduate Council for not allowing him to see legislation before the council debated it and forced him to take a position on it. Lewis argued he might in fact be vetoing legislation he agreed with in principle because of minor points that would have been worked out beforehand.

Lewis' complaint was valid. After all, a little more time to work things out with someone who has a better sense of the past could never harm a piece of legislation. If the council members still preferred their original legislation to the compromise, they were welcome to vote on it and receive the symbolic veto.

But Lewis proved himself the hypocrite last week when he brought to the Committee on College Life a new policy for forced medical leaves of absence after it had been approved by the Faculty Council.

Lewis claimed that the proposal did not fall under the jurisdiction of any of the student-faculty committees, and that he just wanted to make the committee members aware of the proposals.

This is bull, and Lewis knows it. The policy directly affects students, and this is exactly the kind of policy that demands student/faculty discussions. I'm sure that it wasn't too difficult to find a committee that didn't mind having forced medical leaves on their agenda.

Led by Marco B. Simons '97, student committee members acted in the best spirit of student representation. After pointing out the obvious problems with the process, they proceeded to offer a detailed analysis of the plan, ask some tough questions and offer constructive suggestions.

Simons pulled no punches when pointing out the hypocrisy of the Dean's actions. "If we are expected to follow certain processes, talking to all the relative players beforehand, I would expect the administration to do the same," he said. Bingo!

However, Simons did not get hung up on process, but delved into the policy, looking precisely where Lewis said he wanted to be involved on student proposals: the details.

Simons pionted out that the proposal relies on University Health Services (UHS) evaluations almost exclusively, and asked who else could make the decision besides UHS. The dean couldn't answer him.

He asked about the issue of appeals to the Administrative Board, noting that there was nothing requiring the dean to allow an appeal. The language was then changed from "may refer the dispute" to "will refer the dispute."

Sounds to me like one of those little details that Dean Lewis might have liked to make on an Undergraduate Council resolution before it was presented, doesn't it?

Lewis has been criticized for not taking student input into account before, but it is a new low for him to not even bother to go through the motions of soliciting it. And as Simons proved, students often have constructive suggestions to make, particularly on policies that relate to their own lives.

The council was wrong not to solicit the dean's input on their own resolutions before presenting them to him already set in stone. Perhaps Lewis wanted to show them the problems with that way of doing things.

If so, he has certainly succeeded. I think everyone on campus now agrees that input is a good thing. I think we've all seen that proposals become a lot better when you consult those they affect before writing them.

If Lewis and the council continue to disregard each other, their proposals will reflect that lack of perspective. And the two will continue to prove it is no accident that the words ignore and ignorance come from the same Latin root.

Valerie J. MacMillan's column appears on alternate Thursdays.

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