When Magnus Grimeland ’07 was sent on a special mission by the admissions office to woo at-the-time prospective freshman Thomas D. Hadfield ’08, he had no idea that two years later the two would be planning a bid for the top leadership of Harvard’s Undergraduate Council (UC).
But after convincing Hadfield, a fellow international student, to make the move to Cambridge, the two have maintained their friendship and now are hoping to use their unconventional past experiences as a springboard to reform the UC.
“Harvard is a diverse community and it takes diverse leadership to get something done around here. It’s easy for other candidates to live within the bubble of Harvard Yard,” Hadfield says.
He added that his and Grimeland’s unique backgrounds lend their ticket “a fresh perspective that can shake the UC out of its rut.”
Convincing Hadfield, a 23-year-old British entrepreneur, to enroll at Harvard was a slightly easier endeavor than the high-stakes expeditions Grimeland has undertaken in the past. The Norwegian native, a corporal in a branch of the Norwegian Special Forces that he says is equivalent to the American Navy SEALs, has served less than one semester on the UC as a member of the Finance Commmittee (FiCom).
“I’ve been on the UC. I know the committees, I know what they do, I know all the initiatives that are going on,” he says. And Grimeland believes that his adventures outside the UC, like grueling military training expeditions in the Norwegian mountains without food for five days, have given him the leadership skills and fortitude to get things done.
Similarly, Hadfield, a UC outsider, draws his skills from past experiences such as his creation of the first commercial soccer website, soccernet.com, when he was 12 years old.
He says his entrepreneurial experience founding several subsequent websites and programs will help the ticket accomplish its goals if elected. He adds that at Harvard he has proven his ability to accomplish tasks that are similar to what he would face on the UC while founding the Swipe for Darfur initiative last year. The initiative, which was initially opposed by the administration, allowed students to donate Crimson Cash to help the African Union bring female police officers into Darfur.
To convince administrators, Hadfield organized a student petition.
“We collected 2,800 signatures in 48 hours, which is the most number of signatures collected on any campus at one time,” he recalls.
A BREATH OF FRESH AIR
Appealing to and incorporating student perspectives is a cornerstone of the campaign.
Grimeland and Hadfield say they have identified five issues they feel are important for students. “I think all these five points are things students want, and the people at Harvard elect the UC to get these things done,” Grimeland says.
The initiatives include a call for a $10 million investment from the university in measures to improve undergraduate life. The ticket also is proposing a fund-rasing campaign that will raise $1 million to be matched by the university and distributed to student groups.
Their other major platforms are expanding the Party Fund, increasing funding for House Councils, and making coursepacks available online.
They also want to improve the relationship between the student body and the UC, which they feel has been strained recently.
“When was the last time that the Undergraduate Council asked the student body what they wanted?” Hadfield questions.
To repair the relationship, the two candidates are proposing a semi-annual survey to gather student input and opinions as well as inviting students to participate in UC town-hall style meetings.
Amid countless flyers and posters for the opposition, some Harvard students have been puzzled by the limited number of “Magnus and Tom” campaign materials.
The candidates, however, stress that their campaign is focused on individuals. While other candidates are competing in “visibility contests” in front of the Science Center, Grimeland, Hadfield, and their supporters are talking to people about UC-related issues that they feel strongly about, seeking to gain momentum one Harvard student at a time.
ONE BY ONE
Gabe M. Scheinmann ’08, the candidates’ campaign manager, says, “What we want to do is focus on meeting as many students as possible, hopefully all, going door-to-door, in the freshmen dorms, in the Quad, by the River.”
Last year’s campaign manager for the ‘outsider’ ticket, Connor C. Wilson ’07, says that he believes this strategy could work.
“The more students they meet the better their chances are,” Wilson says, explaining that personal appeals could lead to greater voter turnout.
Wilson, who had planned to run in this campaign, has not endorsed a candidate in this election. He did say he was impressed the most with the Grimeland and Hadfield’s views and questioned the Haddock-Riley appeal for reform.
“I think that for Haddock-Riley to call themselves the outside campaign, it doesn’t work, Haddock’s been on the Council too long,” Wilson says.
Hadfield and Grimeland are trying to use their positions as authentic outsiders to the UC to appeal to voters who think the UC needs fresh leadership.
“I think not being involved with this difficult period of the UC’s life, that’s an advantage for a candidate,” Hadfield says.
However, some view the relative inexperience of both Grimeland and Hadfield as a limitation to their abilities.
Jane Fang ’08, who chairs the Finance Committee for which Grimeland serves has doubts about the ticket being able to accomplish its goals.
“If they were to be in this office they would have a huge learning curve,” Fang says. “They basically need to hit the ground running.”
She adds, “They have to be in touch with what’s going on with the UC right now.” Fang has endorsed Voith-Gadgil.
Though Grimeland says he’s learned how the UC functions over the past semester, he has also faced expulsion hearings for missing a number of meetings while being called away for military service.
Grimeland says he would excuse himself from the service if he were elected and Hadfield adds that other UC members, including Voith, have faced expulsion hearings in the past.
In addition to skeptics within the UC, several Harvard students may question Hadfield and Grimeland’s lack of Council experience.
Hadfield views this as an advantage.
“The current UC is disconnected from the student body. It will take outside experience to reconnect them,” he says.
Grimeland echoes his running mate, adding that current UC members have already been given the opportunity to change it, but have had limited results.
“Haddock is talking about fixing the UC,” Grimeland says, referring to Haddock’s website FixTheUC.com, “Well, he’s had two years to do it.”
Though Grimeland and Hadfield have an ambitious set of initiatives that they hope to accomplish in office, they know they first must prove their capabilities to students.
So far, their campaign of reaching out to individuals has turned some heads and won support.
The Harvard Republican Club (HRC), in addition to other groups including the Nordic Ski Team, have endorsed the ticket.
In an e-mail sent to the GOP open, the HRC labeled Grimeland and Hadfield “the most qualified candidates for the job.”
“Their platform, which includes the creation of a $10 million investment plan for the UC and a $2 million endowment for student groups, is certainly ambitious. But we think that if anybody is capable of getting the job done, it’s Magnus and Tom,” the e-mail says.
Students who are acquainted with Grimeland and Hadfield all spoke about their ability to motivate others and accomplish their objectives.
Tim J. Werly ’08, the campaign’s director of freshman, recounted how Hadfield, his roommate freshman year, encouraged him to apply for a job with the Freshman Intramural Program and even wrote him a recommendation without being asked to.
“Tom is that way, he will do anything for anyone without any thought of reward,” Werly says. “He would truly serve the student body if elected. Tom has big ideas and nothing is too big for him.”
Wojciech P. Kaszynski ’07, a member of the Woodbridge Society of International Students and an active supporter of the Grimeland-Hadfield ticket, recounts the productive conversations he’s had with Grimeland.
“I never get bored talking to Magnus, and we talk for hours about everything from campus problems to world issues,” Kaszynski says. “He never ignores anyone, spreading unity rather that creating divisions. He brings to the table experiences and perspectives matched by few, and definitely not by any other presidential candidate.”
Jennifer W. Harlow ’07, who along with Grimeland is co-captain of the Varsity Nordic Ski Team, writes in an e-mail that their outsider position would be most effective in reforming the UC.
“The only way I can see the UC actually changing is if it is lead by people with a different outlook and way to go about doing things,” she writes.
“If anyone will be able to reform the UC, they will be the most likely to do it.”