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.