Student Power: By What Right?

(first of several parts)


Who should run Boston University? Ed Siegel, editor of the News, and one of the more prominent javelin-bearers for the New Left and the student power movement at B.U., thinks the students and faculty should. He has said that students and faculty have the right to control the University while "…the power of the Administration is illegitimate because it is not derived from the students and faculty, but from the unrepresentative Board of Trustees,"

Mr. Siegel's insistent demands for student control of the University evade the fact that it is privately owned and does not belong to the students or faculty. Thus, when he says that as long as the Administration runs the school according to the desires of the owners (Board of Trustees), it will be "illegitimate" and "unrepresentative," it is his way of saying that he opposes private ownership.

The concept of private ownership, Mr. Siegel recognizes, is the only thing in the way of a New Left take-over at Boston University, or, on a wider scale, in the way of a New Left take-over of the nation. In the most fundamental sense, the concept of property is the retaining wall between a civilized society and one of savages. In pre-Nazi Germany, for example, the whole idea of property had to be damned and damned again before Hitler and his Youth Corp could succeed in taking over the nation.

This is the purpose and motive behind Mr. Siegel's constant use of the words "illegitimate" and "unrepresentative" when speaking of the right of the owners (Board of Trustees) to run their property (the University). Neither Mr. Siegel's vocabulary nor his political philosophy should go unquestioned. Last spring, 200 SDS members succeeded in bringing Columbia, a campus of 17,000, to a grinding terrorized halt—was that "representative?"

Most students who espouse "student power" do not mean—nor would they support—the physical take-over of University property which the News advocates weekly. What most students mean by "student power" is a suggestion box without a hole in the bottom. But while students might desire "suggestion boxes," such boxes are not theirs by right.

Students at B.U, came uncoerced; those concerned with living conditions, course contents, and how large a "voice" they would be given had ample opportunity to visit the campus and conduct their own investigation before registering. Those who didn't do so can scarcely condemn the Administration for their own short-sightedness.

There are a remarkable number of ways students can effectively bring their grievances before the Administration without resorting to premordial club play. They could send letters to the Administration outlining their complaints, following up with similar notes to the trustees, alumni, large financial contributors, and the press. They could boycott classes. Failing still, they could arrange a massive transfer to another college. Any of these methods, if well organized, supported by enough students, and backed with logical arguments, could convince the Administration. None of these methods violate anyone's rights. And that is the key to honest "student power."