In a year with a presidential election many pundits say is too close to call, Harvard has its own tight contest--that for Undergraduate Council chairman.
Present Chairman Evan J. Mandery '89 made the customary decision not to seek re-election this fall, and he is without a clear heir apparent, so four council veterans have entered the fray for the student government's highest office to be chosen Sunday night by the 88 newly elected council members.
The chairman often represents the undergraduate community before the administration, runs council sessions, serves on each of the council's committees and has a limited degree of agenda setting power.
All four candidates held either council-wide office or committee chairmanships last year and council members and observers say that none has a true upper hand in the election.
.Deborah J. Slotnick '90 of North House was chairman of the council's services committee all last year and is a third term council representative.
.Frank E. Lockwood '89, who resides in Quincy House, was just elected to his second council term. He served as secretary second semester last year.
.Ronald S. Lee '90 of Eliot House was social committee chairman during the fall semester and shared that job during the second semester. He is a third term representative.
.Kenneth E. Lee '89, also of Eliot House, served as council vice chairman first semester last year, and during the spring semester he chaired a council committee proposing guidelines governing free speech at controversial campus events. In addition to his present term, he was a council member during his freshman and junior years.
This year's crop of candidates is unusual in that it includes two seniors. Traditionally, the council chairman has been a junior, who steps down to become an elder statesman member during his or her senior year.
It is especially hard to predict the results of the election because, as happens each year, about two-thirds of the council members are new to the body. These representatives, because they are unfamiliar with the candidates, may form their opinions based on the candidates' performance in tonight's debate and at Sunday night's question and answer session, council members say.
"I think it is unlikely that any of them would win on the first ballot," Mandery says. A candidate must attain a simple majority to win the office. If no one wins a majority on the first ballot, the top candidates whose votes taken together add up to a majority will participate in a run-off.
Marking a change from past years, all four candidates agree that the council is a proper forum for discussion of controversial campus issues, such as final clubs or unionization. In previous elections, at least one candidate for chairman called for the council to devote itself primarily to student services, rather than controversial questions such as divestment. And three years ago an attempt to oust a sitting chairman for not addressing divestment failed.
However, the candidates differ on how and to what degree the council should address so-called "political issues" such as divestment, the all-male final clubs and recruitment of minority faculty.
Two of the candidates have made controversial issues the centerpieces of their campaigns.
Ken Lee says his primary aim as council chairman would be to have the council "take a more aggressive stance in taking action on the issues which are most important to the University, even if they are the most difficult issues to deal with." He cites the selection process for the Board of Overseers--one of Harvard's governing boards--minority hiring and Harvard's investment policy as issues on which he would urge the council to take positions.
Another candidate, Lockwood, has gone beyond advocating that the council hear divisive issues--he has vocally taken sides on them. Lockwood sponsored last year's failed resolution backing an anti-discrimination complaint against the council and co-authored a bill calling on the University not to wage a campaign against the would-be staff election. He says convincing the nine final clubs to admit women would be a top priority in a Lockwood administration.
While Ken Lee says the council should vote one way or another on the recently released Young Report on procedures for Board of Overseers' nominations, Lockwood already condemns the report as "conduct unbecoming of the Harvard administration."
While Slotnick agrees that the council should consider devisive issues, she has based her campaign on service-oriented issues such as a council newsletter. Furthermore she has made her own strict neutrality on divisive questions a key part of her platform.
Her position paper states "I will work to incorporate each member's goals into the council's agenda for the semester to the best of my ability. In addition, as chairperson I will not judge the merits of any issue. That's the job of the council."
"While leading a discussion...it's not my job to make sure the debate ends up skewed in a certain way," says Slotnick. "It's my job to make sure that all sides of the issue are heard equally."
And Ron Lee says he supports a political council--up to a point. "More than anything else, I think the council needs to have its ear closer to the ground and closer to the students' voices in order to prevent politics from becoming an end in and of itself."
But Ron Lee has taken public positions on controversial issues: he advocated fair union elections at a council-Corporation meeting last spring and says he opposes a bill calling on final clubs to admit women.
The most important political issue that will face the next chairman will be the final clubs--to which 10 percent of male undergraduates belong--and how the council should deal with them.
In February, the council voted down a proposal to endorse the sex discrimination complaint brought by Lisa J. Schkolnick '88 against the Fly Club but gave her $250 for legal expenses to ensure a fair hearing. In May, the council tabled a bill which would have called on the clubs to admit women.
But other issues are also on the agenda, including campus-wide social life, the need for a student center, handling the council's newly doubled budget and perennial academic matters like tenure policy and the advising system.
Adding more fuel to the campaign's fires are the candidates' specific proposals and records.
Kenneth E. Lee '89
Ken Lee says as chairman, in addition to urging the council to take up "difficult" issues such as University investment, he also hopes to "tap the resources of more council members" so they will take a more active role in council decisions and activities. Generally, Ken Lee estimates, about 12 members do most of the body's work.
The economics concentrator says his experience as vice-chairman and his role on the freedom of speech committee make him qualified to hold the top job. The council approved the free speech committee's report, which proposed guidelines for controversial campus speaking events this fall. A student-faculty committee chaired by Professor of Government Joseph S. Nye, which numbers Ken Lee among its members, will this fall propose formal guidelines to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Ken Lee says the council is the "perfect arena" to debate the final clubs' membership policies.
"I think that it is appropriate for us as students to call on a final club organization to admit women," says Ken Lee, "I do not think it is appropriate for the UC to support the discrimination complaint of Lisa Schkolnick."
Ronald S. Lee '90
Ron Lee, also of Eliot House, says he wants to improve undergraduate advising and the shuttle bus system, as well as ensuring that the council is "particularly prudent in our distribution of grants," in light of the doubling of the council's budget this year from $60,000 to $120,000.
He also says it needs to work more closely with house committees to do a better job in throwing parties or concerts for the whole school. The history and literature concentrator points to successful events planned by last year's social committee such as the tailgate party before the Yale game, the raft race and the Quadfest party as evidence for his qualifications.
Last year several concerts discussed by the council failed to materialize, but Ron Lee says that lack should not be a detriment to his campaign. "I think the fact we will probably have a concert this year shows it was not a matter of negligence, just the time and opportunity wasn't quite right."
Ron Lee, a member of the all-male Porcellian Club, says his final club membership would not impede his ability to moderate a discussion on any resolutions concerning the clubs. "I don't think my membership in a club necessarily precludes my ability to be impartial in a meeting on the club issue," says Lee, adding he would temporarily cede the chair if he "had something burning to say." The chairman votes only to break a tie.
Frank E. Lockwood '89
Improving constituent contact and furthering programs which bring undergraduates and the homeless together are two of Lockwood's goals as chairman.
He also proposes a College-sponsored program to provide low interest loans for students who would not be otherwise able to afford a personal computer. "I think it's a real disadvantage in 1988 to come to school without a computer," says Lockwood.
Lockwood cites his work last semester as secretary, the council's third highest but generally least sought job, his advocacy of University neutrality in the union election and his outspoken stance against the all-male final clubs as elements of his record which qualify him for the chairmanship.
Lockwood is a member of Stop Witholding Access Today (SWAT), a group formed to back Schkolnick's complaint against the Fly Club. He says he would be able to fairly conduct a meeting on clubs despite his strong views on the topic.
"Debbie Slotnick, Ron Lee and Ken Lee don't have a monopoly on fairness or judiciousness. I think my record shows I've been very fair and reasonable," says Lockwood, pointing to his objectivity in taking the minutes during meetings devoted to the final clubs last year.
The history concentrator also proposes the direct election of the council chairman by the student body.
Deborah J. Slotnick '90
North House resident Slotnick, if elected, would become the first woman to lead the council since its formation six years ago.
She says her administration's goals would include a council newsletter, campus-wide social events, minority faculty recruitment and pressuring the administration for an undergraduate student center.
"No one wants to wake up one morning and find a student center that doesn't meet the students' needs," says Slotnick.
She emphasizes the importance of "building a trust with various departments within the school...Trust is a step toward getting more student input."
Slotnick also proposes a student-faculty committee to centralize approval of large campus social events, so that council organizers would not have to appeal to a variety of administrators for each event.
The history and literature concentrator says her candidacy for chairman is bolstered by her accomplishments as services committee chairman, including the inception of the Julio Delvalle Memorial Public Service prize and the chartered buses which went to the Yale game. Her committee also presided over the installation of condom machines in all the houses last spring.