Undergraduate Council is Reform Material for First-Years

Carsten M. Reichel '98 ran for the Undergraduate Council as a joke.

"I didn't campaign or anything," he said. "I just put my name on the ballot to see what would happen -- maybe I could get scandalized ... or something cook like that."

Many members of this year's Freshman Caucus associated the council with scandals when they came to Harvard last fall, and so it's not surprising when many of them say they want to break from the council's past and change its focus to be more concerned with providing services to students than with political bickering.

Nathaniel A. Malka '98, this semester's chair of the Freshman Caucus, said that the impression he had gotten from campus newspapers about the council was not positive one.

"I was skeptical about the honesty of certain well-known council members, but I was optimistic about the number of new members, and especially since I knew some of the freshmen joining the council, and found them to be earnest, interested members," Malka said.

"In general, I had a feeling that this year would be different from past years in terms of how the council is viewed, at least by my own class, because there was pressure to break from the `scandals' of the past, and as a freshman to assert that we had no part in contributing to some supposed image problem," he added.

Many Freshman Caucus members have gone out of their way not only to distance themselves from any image problem of the council but also to forge a new image for the council,.

Rather than focusing their energies on attempting to sway administrative policy, most Freshman Caucus members say they are interested primarily in bringing the council closer to students so that it can provide bigger and better events.

As many members of the Freshman Caucus were presidents of their high schools' student governments as had never been involved in student government before, but nearly all of them brought to the council a desire to improve the day-to-day lives of students.

Geoffrey Rapp '98 said that the council's recent focus on the administration rather than the students has made it a farce.

"The basic problem with the U.C. is that it has a fundamentally service-oriented function, yet the people that run for it are only interested in hobnobbing with [President] Neil [L.] Rudenstine," Rapp said.

In general, Freshman Caucus members tend to look down upon those council members who they see as trying mainly to pad their resumes and to admire those who stand apart from politics and focus their energies on making council events successful.

While most caucus members have strong views about whether or not council President Joshua D. Liston '95 acted inappropriately when he took a public stand saying that Gina Grant should be admitted to Harvard, they do not feel that the council's time should be spent discussing such matters.

"The debate on the petition provided and excellent insight into what the council is liked and disliked for," Malka said. "Rather than getting to actually debate the petition [to censure Liston], we spent all of the time debating whether or not it should first be brought to the floor."

Malka said that sort of debate is worthless because it doesn't affect students in any way.