The Independent’s UC Election Q&A

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Candidates outline their vision for the Undergraduate Council.

Why are you running for the UC?

Martel* / Zimmermann: As freshmen, we heard UC candidates to the presidency and vice-presidency give wild speeches about how they were going to change the undergraduate experience and fulfill dozens of promises. These promises were broken. As sophomores, we were slightly more skeptical of the process now that we were aware of the general attitude of the UC, but we were just bushy-tailed enough to vote in the hopes that we weren’t being completely deceived. Now, a year later, it has become completely clear that all the average UC candidate does is ridicule the student body with its empty promises and flagrant disregard of the needs of many campus groups. We are normal students pushed to the brink, and we have decided that it is time for new leadership- authentic leadership- to take control.

Sundquist / Sarafa: We are running for UC President and Vice President because we want to make changes that will benefit all students at Harvard, and we believe that we have the experience and the vision to do it.

Willey / Snow: We are running for the UC because there is a need for change. The current UC administration is entirely out of touch with the student body, and most students feel as though the UC does not affect them. We want to reach out to bring more students into the process and put the UC back in touch with the average Harvard student.

Tell us about your vision. What are the issues that are most important to you, and how will you address them?

Martel / Zimmermann: The primordial issue for us is getting as many student voices represented as possible. As we both have radically opposing points of view, we will deliberate and compromise on every issue. One that is very important to us is funding for individual actors on campus. If the UC can fund students groups that are not as active as they should be, why should they be wasting this money instead of allowing students to reap the benefits individually? If a student has a positive idea with which to improve student life, our administration will allow them to apply for funding, and a UC deliberation will declare whether they deserve such funding.

Sundquist / Sarafa: The most important issues we want to address are the Ad Board and student group funding. We will push for a full review and reform of the Ad Board, and we will make sure that student voice is included in the process and bring student concerns to the administration. We will also clarify student group funding policies by emailing every student group that does not receive full funding an explanation as to why and by posting examples of successful applications on our website.

We also want to improve mental health services. By working with UHS, we hope to publicize a list of the outside psychiatrists who Harvard students can see under the UHS health plan and create an internal feedback system so UHS knows the strengths and weaknesses or its resources.

In addition, we plan to initiate a UC capital campaign — an idea we have already discussed with Dean Pilbeam and the FAS Development Office — and to reduce costs for student groups, from making it free to print tickets at the Harvard Box Office to purchasing a set of speakers that will be available for rent. The issue of ticket printing is particularly important, as students on full financial aid can receive free admission to any event ticketed through the Box Office. Right now, however, many student group events are not included because of the cost of ticket printing.

Willey / Snow: The issues most important to us are simplifying the student group budget process, providing those groups with more resources, bringing more students into the process by allowing them to easily submit their concerns on-line, and bringing back the party grant. We have already started addressing some of these concerns in our campaign by bringing students on board who have been uninvolved in past UC elections and asking them to help out and offer their input. We have started reaching out by asking students what concerns them and sitting down with student groups to listen to their needs and concerns. Once elected, we will continue to listen to voices of all students rather than only the voices within the UC.

What are mistakes that the UC has made in the past? What changes do you hope to make to the way business is done?

Martel / Zimmermann: This administration has destroyed the legitimacy of the UC as an institution between the Party Grant scandal, the Ryan Petersen installation speech debacle, and their support of such radically biased initiatives as the SLAM hunger strike. Under our administration, the UC will not have one single voice on any political issue, because the student body does not have a single voice on any political issue. The UC will not rudely defy the administration, because they are our immediate superiors and deserve at least a minimum of respect. Nor will the UC fail to reach out to most of campus, because UC meetings will be accessibly devoid of parliamentary procedure and individual UC representatives will be encouraged to host UC tables at the Houses and dorms.

Sundquist / Sarafa: The UC’s communication with the administration has been imperfect this year. We want to build relationships with the administration so that they will listen when we bring student concerns before them. We will be in better communication with the administration, and we hope that they will be in better communication with us. That way, we expect that there will not be any unexpected attempts to change policies that have long been in place.

Willey / Snow: In the past year the UC has managed to further isolate itself from students by taking insular positions and addressing only the internal concerns of the UC. They have negotiated away the party grants, embarrassed the student body at the installation of our first female president, and ignored a large portion of the student body. We will change the way business is done. We will refuse to settle, we will stand up for student concerns and we will be true representatives of the student body — not just figure heads who frequently lunch with administrators and faculty. We will change the way business is done in the UC simply by serving as true representatives of all students.

What distinguishes you from the other UC tickets? Why would you be the best choice?

Martel / Zimmermann: For one, we have a sense of humor. We take aiding student life at Harvard seriously, but our sobriety in this definitely doesn’t translate into our campaigning. We actually look like we’re having fun when we campaign, rather than scowling as we hand you a flier. We don’t see ourselves as saviors or having any divine right to the position, we’re just normal students that got fed up, and now we have a new plant.

Sundquist / Sarafa: Our experience sets us apart in this race, and we hope our past determination and dedication to students will be highlighted by results we have achieved in the past year. The ideas we are running on are not controversial — anyone can agree that it would be good to fix the Ad Board, make the grants process easier, or get cable TV. But it will take leaders who understand the complexity of these issues and who know how to work with the administration to actually make them happen. After years of resistance, the administration isn’t going to agree to any of this just because the UC demands it. Matt, as the current UC VP, has good working relationships with many members of the administration. Randall, as the current Chair of the UC Finance Committee and a former leader of the Society of Arab Students, knows how student group funding works and has dealt with it from both sides. No other ticket has the experience that we have, and no other ticket will be able to deliver the results we can.

Willey / Snow: The way the UC works with the administration is particularly ineffective, as evidenced by the recent party grant fiasco and the UC leadership’s claim of credit for calendar reform in spite of President Bok’s statement in the Crimson on Monday that the deans were the ones who pushed through calendar reform — not the UC. The current UC administration has been more concerned with patronizing the administration than with representing students. Under our leadership, we will have a UC that listens to the concerns of all students and reaches out to those who are currently unaffected by the UC. With that larger critical mass of students supporting our efforts, we will be able to go to the administration with a mandate on day one and start effecting the change that the students want.

Do you think the way the UC works with the administration is effective? What would the relationship between the UC and administration look like under your leadership?

Martel / Zimmermann: Under our governance, the administration will no longer be a straw man that the UC leadership tries to break down in front of the students. We would actively create ad-hoc organizations that would meet with administrators and include members of cultural organizations as well as UC members and representatives from the HoCos. Because UC meetings would be held in section-like settings, we will attract more students outside of the UC and integrate them into the dialogue with the administration.

Sundquist / Sarafa: The UC’s relationship with the administration is far from perfect. While we have successfully worked together this year — as we did on calendar reform — we have also had our disagreements. At the end of the day, when dealing with the administration, the UC is an advocate for student interests. It cannot force the administration’s hand, but it can ensure that student concerns are taken seriously. That is why it is so important for the UC President and VP to have good relationships and know how to deal with administrators.

Under our leadership, we will sit down with all the deans and faculty members who we anticipate working with throughout the year and make them aware of our goals. If we want to effect change, we need to be completely open with students and administrators alike about our plans for the year and what we expect to accomplish. The administration does not typically think in the short-term window that students do but rather in 5- to 10-year time frames, and we need to ensure that we are on the same page.

Willey / Snow: The way the UC works with the administration is particularly ineffective, as evidenced by the recent party grant fiasco and the UC leadership’s claim of credit for calendar reform in spite of President Bok’s statement in the Crimson on Monday that the deans were the ones who pushed through calendar reform — not the UC. The current UC administration has been more concerned with patronizing the administration than with representing students. Under our leadership, we will have a UC that listens to the concerns of all students and reaches out to those who are currently unaffected by the UC. With that larger critical mass of students supporting our efforts, we will be able to go to the administration with a mandate on day one and start effecting the change that the students want.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Sundquist / Sarafa: This is an important election for the entire student body because the issues we are discussing affect everyone. Thanks for reading our responses, and please take the time to vote this week!

Willey / Snow: Up until now this election has been characterized as a choice between insider knowledge and change, and that characterization is completely fair. However, this election is also about action. Who is willing to take action and work every day to implement the things that the student body wants, and to get real results? When the election is framed as about action, our ticket is the logical choice. For the past year, we have led the lives of the average Harvard student and watched as the UC stumbled time and time again, failing to effect any real, meaningful change. The same people that were unable to effect that change are running again, on many of the same promises. They say that they have the experience. Well, the question the student body should ask is, “What did experience get us this year?”

* Frances Martel is the Publisher and Forum Editor of the Independent.

Correction appended: Leo Zimmermann’s name was incorrectly spelled in the first version of this article. The Independent regrets the error.