After a week of ardent campaigning in which all candidates have clamored for radical reform, The Crimson confidently endorses Rohit Chopra ’04 and Jessica R. Stannard-Friel ’04 for president and vice president of the Undergraduate Council. Chopra and Stannard-Friel have the experience and vision to implement their ambitious platform and to rescue the council from the unfulfilled promises and squandered credibility that have characterized the past year.
The accomplishments of Chopra and Stannard-Friel have been some of the council’s greatest recent highlights. They played key roles in the Core reduction, extended universal keycard access, Springfest, later party hours, free Harvard-Yale tickets and a spirited tailgate at The Game. They have served on the council for a combined eight semesters, far more than any competing ticket. They chair two of the council’s three committees—Chopra leads the Student Affairs Committee and Stannard-Friel leads the Campus Life Committee.
As frustrated insiders with an abundance of new ideas, Chopra and Stannard-Friel stand poised to legitimize the council as an active force in student services and student advocacy. No other candidate can boast of the kind trust and respect Chopra has earned from working with top administrators, but Chopra does not hesitate to voice determined opposition when student interests are threatened. His efforts against preregistration have shown that he is more than willing to stand up to the administration.
Where their predecessors failed to generate any significant improvements in Harvard’s oft-bemoaned social scene, Chopra and Stannard-Friel promise to focus their energy on improving undergraduate social life, week in and week out. They propose an unprecedented party fund that would provide eight $50 subsidies each week to encourage students to host parties that are open to large numbers of undergraduates. While they have not finalized the details, we hope that Chopra and Stannard-Friel will emphasize parties open to entire Houses and not those for final clubs or a few friends and blockmates.
The two propose to restructure the dysfunctional Concert Commission and to plan a concert at the Bright Hockey Center as a springboard for a future concert in Harvard Stadium. They have already begun work to add a student grill to Loker Commons as a first step toward making it a more attractive social space, and they also promise to develop plans for a student center a few years down the road. Their social reforms also include creative if less glamorous ideas such as dollar movies at the Science Center and skating nights with food and music across the river.
Their student services platform extends far beyond social life. Chopra and Stannard-Friel propose the implementation of e-sourcebooks, freely accessible to all students online, along with a resurrected UC Marketplace and more convenient and numerous student shuttles during holidays.
Chopra and Stannard-Friel complement these improvements in student services with intelligent and feasible improvements to student advocacy. Students often do not hear from their representatives after election, and many students do not even know even their representatives’ names. Chopra and Stannard-Friel will require that all representatives publish reports highlighting their plans and accomplishments twice each semester and plan frequent office hours in high traffic areas like brain breaks and House grills.
Within this more responsive framework, Chopra and Stannard-Friel plan to use their leverage with administrators and faculty to lobby for a joint student-faculty committee on new courses and concentrations, emulating other Ivy League schools. This committee would provide a forum in which to push for short-term curricular change and serve as the first step toward more student involvement in long-term curricular review. Chopra and Stannard-Friel will also fight for student representation on the Administrative Board to bring it a measure of transparency and fairness.
Chopra and Stannard-Friel offer a reason for optimism after a dismal year for the council, and we are impressed with both the breadth of their vision and their formidable record of proven results. Regardless of the outcome, we urge all the candidates to pursue the improvements in undergraduate life that they have advocated. But one ticket can most effectively lead the council to make these improvements. The Crimson gives Rohit Chopra and Jessica Stannard-Friel its unqualified endorsement.