Election Profile: Stephen Smith & James Coleman
Stephen N. Smith '02 is the heir apparent to current Undergraduate Council president Fentrice D. Driskell '01.
He worked on her campaign last year. He stuck by Driskell's running mate John A. Burton '01 during last year's impeachment scandal.
And his campaign themes--"bringing people together" and building community--are strikingly similar to the Driskell's platform from last year.
Driskell, whose opponent Sterling P. A. Darling '01 was endorsed by last year's outgoing president, says she will not make an endorsement this year--although she is working on Smith's campaign.
"I know what it feels like to be on the opposite end [of an endorsement]," she says. "But as a friend, I will be working on Steve's campaign in a limited capacity."
But for all of Smith's connections to the outgoing council leadership, it's not clear whether Driskell's support will be an asset or a liability to the candidate from Adams House.
On the one hand, Driskell ran one of the most successful campaigns in council history last year, crushing her opponents with more than twice as many votes as anyone else.
But Driskell has strong and committed opponents on the council who are convinced she has made little headway with her "community building" initiatives, and who say that Smith's presidency will be similarly characterized by inaction.
"One of the big problems with this 'community building' idea is that it's so vague," says council representative Todd E. Plants '01. "It has to be more than just talk. I haven't seen that yet."
Smith, however, says he has a proven track record of getting the job done.
Athletic, engaging and energetic, he has amassed an impressive resume of activism and student group involvement in addition to his work on council.
As a first-year, he founded Boston Area Student Volunteers in the Community (BASIC), a group which sponsors a variety of social programs dealing with housing, the environment, hunger and homelessness.
Smith also founded the Har'd CORPS program, which brings students from Ivy League schools together for community service.
He is a member of the Progressive Student Labor Movement and the Coalition Against Sexual Violence, but says he would not pursue social activism to the exclusion of student services.
"A lot of people associate social activism with not getting much done," Smith says. "That's a mistake."
Smith's supporters say he has proven himself more than adept at getting the job done.
As a first-year, Smith was co-chair of the council's Campus Life Committee (CLC) and helped put together one of the council's most successful and widely attended Springfests ever--featuring the Violent Femmes.
This year, he did not run for CLC chair--but his running-mate James C. Coleman '03 did, and will lead the committee in charge of Springfest and other campus-wide events for the council.
It is no surprise, then, that the ticket's plans for the council focus on increasing both the quantity and quality of these events.
Smith says he wants to sponsor a music series with performances by student bands and DJs, and is authoring The Harvard Guide to Campus-wide Events to help bring different groups together.
He also says he wants to reach out to other student groups to help them put together campus-wide activities, citing his experience planning the "Battle of the Bands" concert over Harvard-Yale weekend.
"The U.C. was a major player in 'Battle of the Bands' but it wasn't the only player," he says. "I don't think that the U.C. should unilaterally dictate community activity."
However, with the student body's refusal to approve an increase in the council's termbill fees for two years straight, the council is strapped for cash and may not be able to afford some of the campus wide events that have been proposed.
Last year's Springfest ran $4,000 over budget and a glitch in planning meant that the inflatable castles and rides did not arrive to the event.
"We had to dip into money set aside for long-term projects," said Jeffrey A. Letalien '01, who is the head of Justin A. Barley's campaign for council president. Now "without a term bill increase we have a hard time providing grants we'd like to provide."
Smith's supporters, however, say that his diligence in planning events is unmatched.
Fellow council member Vladimir A. Kleyman '02 says that Smith "kept us all together during Springfest last year."
Kleyman says the event was almost canceled after the company that was supposed to provide the amusements broke their contract two days before the event.
"When it looked like the ship was sinking, he rescued the project," Kleyman says. "There were several nights where he actually slept in the office."