Although Richard Sandler's report to the 1952 Student Council was not very lengthy, it covered thoroughly most of the functions performed by last year's Council. But the most dramatic part of his report--the part proposing student representation on Faculty committees which deal with problems affecting the student body--received surprisingly little elaboration.
The proposal, now under consideration by the present Council, is that Council members should sit on Faculty committees, ultimately with voting privileges.
The principle of student representation on Faculty committees is a good one, resting as it does on the very natures of the committees and the Council. To properly fulfill their function of advising the Faculty, the committees must consider the views of all who would be affected by the proposal under scrutiny. This includes departments, Houses, individual Faculty members, administrators, and usually the student body. The Student Council is the agency that represents the student viewpoint in Faculty deliberations. This function is a service to Faculty members and undergraduates alike.
Until now, Council-Faculty contact has been channeled through the Dean's Office in accordance with the Gentlemen's Agreement, an informal compact in which the Administration promised to consult the Council before making important decisions affecting undergraduates. The Council presents its views in written statements, which the Dean's Othce in turn transmits to the appropriate Faculty committee.
Because the medium of lengthy reports is at best a stilted one for the presentation of views and because the Council's reports have been mostly rejected--occasionally in a high-handed manner--this system has broken down. At present the Council as a factor in Faculty decision-making is a cipher. Representation on Faculty committees is the only means open to the Council for regaining its place in the College community.
But while the aim of Sandler's proposal is a desirable one, his specific suggestion that Council members sit on Faculty committees, possibly with a vote, is impractical.
In his report, it is not clear whether representation on Faculty committees should supplant written reports or not.
If the former, there is considerable doubt that one Council member could adequately represent the student viewpoint. Moreover, in cases where Faculty committees made decisions objectionable to undergraduates, there would be no way of telling whether the Council member had been overriden because he was deficient in the art of debate, or because his position was genuinely unnamable.
In this case, one may ask, why not back up the Council member with a written statement from the whole Student Council? This would be impossible since the Council could not prepare reports on every issue that came before the Faculty.
There is also the question of whether Council members (elected under a system which--as Sandler pointed out elsewhere in his report--prohibits the election of large numbers of experienced men and fails to train the attention of students on issues which the Council must consider) could survive the intellectual strain of studying, and arguing over the many complicated problems that the Faculty committees must decide upon.
The solution, then, lies somewhere between the Gentlemen's Agreement and the Sandler proposal. There are relatively few issues on which the Council considers it necessary to write reports and these issues amount to a small proportion of those discussed by Faculty committees. It is in this area only that more adequate Council representation is needed. The Faculty should permit one or more Council members to present Council recommendations personally and to discuss them with members of the committee involved.
The success of this plan would depend, like any other system of student-faculty relations--on the good faith of the Faculty members, and on the responsibility of the Student Council. But at least it is a workable improvement over the present system, and one that would benefit both the student body and the Faculty.