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The Undergraduate Council grilled Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby with a round of tough questions at its meeting last night before resolving to extend keycard access and affirming its commitment to cable access for students via Ethernet.
Council President Rohit Chopra ’04 presented Kirby with questions submitted by students via e-mail and steered the discussion toward touchy subjects, including the failure of Kirby’s preregistration plan and the dismissal of Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68.
Kirby praised Lewis but said that his ouster was necessary to bridge the “artificial disconnect” between academic and extracurricular life at the College.
The merger of Lewis’ position with that of Dean of Undergraduate Education Benedict H. Gross ’71 “must take place before, not subsequent to, curricular review” to make the review effective, Kirby said.
And he insisted that the move was “not an effort on our part to decide that henceforth all you’re going to do is study.”
In his replies to most of the questions, Kirby was short on specifics, emphasizing that the ongoing curricular review will provide more concrete answers and policy changes.
He added that he wanted more student input for decisions and praised the council as a helpful conduit.
Student protests, according to Kirby, influenced his decision to table preregistration.
“You all were so upset, worried, anxious about the unknown, that it didn’t seem right to me, didn’t seem fair to me, to implement the plan,” he said.
However, Kirby said that he thought many students didn’t grasp the “nuances” of the preregistration plan, and that students opposed to preregistration were trying to preserve an “illusory freedom.”
“We can’t pretend that the issues have simply gone away,” Kirby said.
He pointed to the idea of students’ submitting a nonbinding preliminary study card as a potential alternative to preregistration.
Some council members said though they felt Kirby was not entirely forthcoming, they appreciated the visit.
“We asked tough questions, I thought that was clear,” Chopra said after the meeting.
Council member Brian C. Grech ’03 noted that Kirby was “very careful about what he was saying.”
“Certainly there were some questions that he didn’t want to answer,” said council Vice President Jessica R. Stannard-Friel ’04. “I think it says something, which questions he does and doesn’t want to answer.”
But council members said they hoped that Kirby would increase communication with students in his decisions.
“I think he’s realized that he has to have a more open line of communication with students,” council Campus Life Committee Chair Michael R. Blickstead ’05 said.
After Kirby’s departure, the council passed by a 27-1 vote a resolution requesting that universal keycard access to Houses begin at 5 a.m. instead of 8 a.m.
Council member Roderick S. Donald ’03 and Student Affairs Committee Chair Matthew W. Mahan ’05, who co-sponsored the bill, said it would help students who wake up in the early morning hours to play sports.
“We’re just trying to chip away [at keycard restrictions],” Mahan said. “This is the next logical step.”
The council also adopted unanimously an official position on cable access for students, advocating a plan for cable broadcasting via the Harvard network presented by council member Wesley H. Kauble ’06.
Kauble said he hopes administrators make cable access a “priority issue” so that the system can be implemented by the beginning of next semester.
“It certainly brings a better news broadcast and it’s something that students deserve,” Kauble said.
Chopra said he that if the cable plan is accepted, it will likely be implemented no earlier than spring semester of next year.
In other business, the council passed a resolution “expressing gratitude for the distinguished service of Dean Harry Lewis.”
“Everyone who’s been around council for a while recognizes what a great dean Harry Lewis has been,” said Grech, who sponsored the bill.
Council members said passing the resolution—which had been tabled in past weeks—after Kirby spoke was an unintentional coincidence.
“I don’t think even Dean Kirby would disagree with anything my bill said,” Grech said, noting the irony of the bill’s timing.
The council also allocated money for several additional Science Center movie screenings in the fall and passed a bill sponsored by council Treasurer Justin R. Chapa ’05 to reopen a long-dormant kitchen in Hilles Library for a new social area for Quad residents.
Chapa said the kitchen was a popular student hangout in past years.
He said he hopes to make the area into “a coffeehouse-type atmosphere,” offering “anything besides grilled stuff.”
—Staff writer William B. Higgins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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