Hunter A. Maats ’04 and John Paul M. Fox ’04 recognize that other candidates running for the Undergraduate Council presidency and vice presidency have more experience on the council.
“Yeah,” Maats says. “Experience at doing a bad job.”
Neither Maats nor Fox has served on the council. But the two Mather residents think this lack of experience would be their biggest asset as council president and vice president.
Being the outsider ticket, they say, will allow them to take more risks and gain new respect for the council from the student body.
Whether it is the Victorian-era style of their Mather common room, Maats’ turn in drag at the Miss Harvard pageant or his running in gold paint with angel wings at primal scream, Maats likes to rebel against the conventional.
“This is not part of his resumé,” says Daniel C. Craig ’04, Maats’ first-year roommate and a campaign worker. “He’ll take a bolder stand against the administration.”
For them, accepting the council’s weakness is the key to increasing its power.
“We appreciate the limitations of our power, and we’re willing to be honest about that,” Maats says.
Instead of relying only on council representatives to lobby for change, Maats and Fox plan to use alumni and negative publicity to pressure the administration to back council causes.
The issues they are campaigning for—better teaching, a student center, 24-hour universal key card access, longer party hours, greater student group funding and cable television—are not new.
It is their strategy that distinguishes them from the pack of candidates, they say.
“We dream the same dream...the difference is that we are going to do it—or at least try to,” Maats says. “Our feeling is if we can’t do it, no one can.”
One substantive issue the pair plans to use their unconventional strategy to address is the quality of teaching at Harvard.
So far, Maats and Fox have showcased their radical style with a campaign of humorous posters and wacky tactics.
“I think there is a lack of a sense of humor on the campaign trail,” Maats says. “I challenged one [opponent] to a walk-off, and he was mortally offended.”
If they should win, Maats and Fox say they would try to eradicate the council of the stodginess that they have avoided in their campaign.
Maats, wearing a blue seersucker suit and pink bow tie, stood out in a line of candidates in business suits at last night’s debate.
“We intend to clear voter apathy with a sense of humor,” Maats says.
Teaching the Institution
The primary focus of the Maats-Fox campaign is to improve the quality of undergraduate teaching at Harvard.
Maats, who was born in Saudi Arabia, raised in Brazil, Greece, New York and England, and attended the famed Eton, says one of the reasons he opted for the American college system was freer exchange between students and professors.
Maats says that while he loves Harvard, he has not found professors as receptive to student input as he had hoped.
“Basically, Harvard sucks as a teaching institution,” Fox says.
Maats and Fox say tenure decisions are too heavily based on a professor’s research projects and public image and not enough on the professor’s relationship with students.
“It has to be realized that some people can teach, some people can research and some people can do both,” Maats says. “The major flaw in the tenure process is that it doesn’t factor in teaching ability as a criterion.”
Maats says his experience as a biochemistry concentrator has led him to see a need for reform of the tenure process.
“I have been exposed to some of the worst teaching on campus,” Maats says.
Maats says the questions about teaching quality that he posed to University President Lawrence H. Summers at a Mather House study break last year were loudly applauded by other science concentrators there.
Maats and Fox say they would use the council to challenge the administration to be more careful in hiring, firing and tenuring.
They also advocate for student input in tenure decisions.
Maats cites the case of Bert Vaux, an associate professor of linguistics, who did not received tenure last year, as one example of the administration ignoring a professor’s teaching ability in granting tenure.
Getting the Job Done
Vaux, who was Maats’ professor in Social Analysis 34, “Knowledge of Language,” has endorsed Maats’ candidacy based on his personality.
Vaux says Maats’ “Euro-brat background” has given him the necessary creativity and confidence to deal with Harvard’s administration.
“[The administration’s] first line of defense is always to play on the naïveté of the students who don’t know the inner workings of the system and use dean-speak to cow you,” Vaux says. “I don’t think that would work on him.”
Maats and Fox say the council has become too passive in its efforts to lobby the administration for change.
“Everything people are campaigning about has been an issue for 10 to 20 years,” Maats said. “We make polite requests and we get refused.”
Maats says the council needs to focus more on instituting changes than passing broad resolutions.
“[The council] has become more like a better-funded Harvard Model Congress,” Maats says. “It’s become more concerned with the business of student government, and the practice and fun of being in government rather than achieving what it was elected to do, which is represent our interests.”
The candidates say they think they can lobby the administration more effectively than past council leaders because of their “charisma.” But they say their use of alumni and negative publicity would be the key to their effectiveness on the council.
Maats says he would directly solicit donations from alumni for council initiatives. Maats says he is qualified to lead this fundraising because he raised money for numerous charities at Eton.
“The generation of alumni that are coming up to gift-giving age now are wealthy alumni from the ’60s who experienced frustration with the administration,” Maats says.
If these two steps fail to bring the administration behind the council’s cause, Maats and Fox say they would contact national media organizations in an attempt to “embarrass the administration.”
Eric J. Powell ’04, the council’s treasurer, says Maats and Fox can offer a valuable new perspective on council affairs—but their lack of experience on the council could be a liability.
“It’s always a good idea to have fresh ideas,” Powell says. “But after you have the ideas, you need to implement them, which is where insiders excel.”
A Light-Hearted Campaign
Some of the candidates were out at 12:01 a.m. last Monday—the official start of campaigning—braving the cold and darkness to plaster their names all over campus.
Maats and Fox were not.
Instead, they have taken a more laid-back to campaigning.
Each candidate has only used $2.40 of his allotted $100 budget for campaigning.
No student groups have officially endorsed them.
Maats and Fox have not pasted any posters with their names in large fonts like the other tickets.
Instead, they have put up standard size pieces of paper with slogans like “We have the Haats 4 Maats.”
Maats and Fox campaigned in front of the Science Center with fliers reading “Hunter Maats and J.P. Fox Will End Bigotry: If you are going to make promises you can’t keep, they might as well be good ones.”
Maats does not have a traditional campaign team either.
Instead of a campaign manager, he calls Katherine R. Katz ’04 the “trophy wife” of his campaign.
“I have been acting as his first lady for his campaign,” Katz says. “He also had some body guards and an assassin.”