They were seated beside each other at a long table in the Kennedy School's Wiener Auditorium Wednesday night. Hair freshly washed and gelled, dressed in their Sunday best, the candidates for the presidency and vice presidency of the Undergraduate Council looked a bit like juvenile delinquents about to face the sentencing judge.
On the far left was Sam Ferrell '95, the last-minute candidate nobody ever heard of, who spoke earnestly of using the council presidency to improve campus lighting, win back students' unused meal contract dollars and organize better social events.
To his right was Dave Hanselman '94-95, the polished Dan Quayle wannabe from Indiana, who offered a bound, 13-page candidate prospectus and a "no scandal guarantee."
Then there was Josh "I'm writing my senior thesis on the council" Liston '95, the flamboyant, self-appointed wit from Eliot House, whose name has been synonymous with council scandals. Last year, the council censured Liston for not fulfilling his duties as vice president--though that censure was later set aside on a technicality. Liston utterly botched a campus-wide referendum he was responsible for administering. And this fall, just before elections, he switched from ardently supporting a $10 term bill hike last year, to opposing it.
Last among the presidential contenders was Jason Schmitt '98, the precocious first-year who vowed to "change" the council (once he learns the way to Sever Hall).
To Schmitt's right sat the would-be vice presidents. First came Randall "call me Randy" Fine '96, whose name has been synonymous with more scandals than even Josh Liston's. Most recently, Fine managed to weasel $24,000 for himself from the federal government, using the council's name, but without its approval.
Fine's neighbor was Brandon Gregoire '95, the relaxed, self-assured Winthrop House delegate who once tried to Ad Board several Crimson staffers for entering the council's offices after hours.
And sitting on the end, trying hard not to be left out, was Jay Kim '95, the council Finance Committee chair who barely eked out enough of Eliot House's 30 votes to win re-election.
A motley crew? Hardly. They all have pipe dreams of running the country one day. If we should be so unlucky, one of them might.
The council is in peril. In some houses this year, there were fewer candidates than positions. Harvard students don't take their student government seriously. In short, if the council doesn't have a strong, respected and respectable leader sometime soon, it probably won't make it.
Sadly, few of these candidates seem to offer the responsible, ethical leadership the council so desperately needs as it fights for survival. Liston and Fine are unethical and unloved. Ferrell is unknown, Kim unimpressive, and Schmitt just plain unqualified.
That said, two of the candidates offer us a glimmer of hope. For president, we endorse Dave Hanselman. Of the four presidential candidates, Hanselman strikes us as the most mature and experienced. As his position paper and door-to-door campaigning demonstrate, he is serious about the job. He has a broad vision and a concrete platform. He is confident, charismatic and, we hope, capable.
For vice president, we support Brandon Gregoire. We've had our share of run-ins with Gregoire, but we're ready to let bygones be bygones. He's a popular representative, with proven leadership experience on the council.
Both Hanselman and Gregoire seem dedicated to their work, to Harvard, to their constituents and to the council. Most important, they are, as far as we can tell, honest.
If that doesn't sound like unqualified praise, it's because it isn't. In truth, we aren't absolutely certain that Hanselman and Gregoire will be able to save the council.
But this much we know: they have a better chance of doing so than their opponents.