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It's No Surprise When Committees Go Nowhere

It's No Surprise When Committees Go Nowhere

I'd like to thank Anders Hove G for his column on Institute governance ["Excess Committees Devalue Governance," August 25]. A big part of the reason change takes so long to happen here is that issues get considered more than once - and sometimes more than twice. In many cases, each round of deliberation takes an academic year.

With a system like this, it's no wonder that many of the recommendations of the Lewis Report that Hove referred to - written in 1949 - still haven't been implemented. But I don't think the committees themselves are the problem. I don't doubt that we suffer from "analysis paralysis," but I think the problem goes deeper.

First, Institute committees as a whole don't build community consensus around their recommendations. Some may think that consensus is unnecessary, but experience shows that a lack of consensus leads recommendations straight to the dusty shelf.

Second, and perhaps even more important, there is an underlying lack of clarity on the faculty's scope. Many faculty feel uncomfortable doing the real work of change on issues of student life. Often, they will feel more comfortable recommending something general and leaving the actual decisions to a group of administrators and students better versed in the specific issues, leading to passings-off like the ones Hove discusses. It works - kind of - but it isn't a good way to run an Institute that needs to cope with rapid change.

Jeremy D. Sher '99