Moving Forward

The last two weeks have been tough for everyone on the Undergraduate Council (UC). At the close of one of our most active semesters to date, former UC Vice President Ian W. Nichols ’06 resigned. Days later, at the next UC meeting, the council elected Clay T. Capp ’06 as the new Vice President. While an unprecedented series of events such as these might understandably lead some to speculate as to what happened behind closed doors, that speculation has gone too far.

Over the last several days, a number of hurtful and misleading rumors, accusations, and conspiracy theories surrounding the resignation of Nichols and the election of Capp have been floating around campus. Members of the UC, especially the council’s Executive Board, have been unfairly attacked with unsubstantiated claims. And those who have attempted to malign these good people—who devote their entire time at Harvard to trying to make a positive difference,—should be ashamed. But the best response to aggression is not always escalation or retaliation. To calm the tensions that have resulted from the events of the past two weeks, I present the facts.

Ten members of the UC signed a petition of impeachment for Ian Nichols on the grounds that he was not doing the job to which he was elected and the effects of that were hurting the council and the campus. Upon receiving the petition, I met with Ian to deliver the news and the two of us then met with several other UC members that same day to discuss what to do next. Ian chose to resign, and did so because, as he said, he did not make the UC his top priority. According to the rules that govern the UC, a new Vice President was to be elected at the following UC meeting—and that is exactly what happened.

The events of the last two weeks are surprisingly straightforward. A petition for impeachment does not constitute foul play; it is instead a constitutional tool that places a check on the performance of an executive. No one was forced out, no one was coerced, and members were certainly not threatened. Many people chose not to run for a job that requires the investment of their entire life at Harvard, and several of those who considered running for Vice President assumed that Clay Capp, who received an unprecedented 1,500 votes in his campus-wide election, would win. While this is not as interesting a story as some that have been spun in the last week, it is, quite simply, the truth.

In my three years on the UC, we have dealt with, and overcome, many hard times. The last two weeks have been one of these difficult times, but the council is already moving past it. The student government, by its very nature, encourages its members to argue, question, and debate each other. But when politics and personal interests get involved, people sometimes lose sight of what they are elected to do. Representatives are elected to the UC to serve the student body as best they can. As this rough patch for the UC comes to a close, it is important for us to put it into perspective, to remember the hard work and progress that has been made.

This semester, the UC considered 69 pieces of legislation, a new record for the council. In just four months, the council has reformed the blocking process, given over $100,000 to student groups and House Committees in hundreds of grants, produced a Springfest that drew 9,000 people, even in the rain, and significantly reformed itself so that it may function more efficiently and effectively. After decades of prior efforts, this UC has secured 24-hour library access, and it is well on its way to extending dining hall hours.

As we get ready for the summer and look toward next year, the council is poised to have an even more successful fall. The comprehensive student report that has been compiled on the Curricular Review will allow us to hit the ground running at the start of the coming semester and get students engaged in deciding the future of their school. A team of representatives will be working over the summer to continue our progress in our advocacy efforts and to begin planning for several campus-wide events for when we return in September.

Looking back over the semester, I am extremely proud of the UC and the work that has been accomplished. More than ever before, this council has effectively worked with the College administration to represent the student body; the progress that we continue to make is a testament to this working relationship. As Clay and I continue these efforts into the summer, we will stay focused on the important tasks that lie before us, and will work tirelessly to meet them.

It has been an honor working for you on the UC this semester and I wish all of you a safe and happy summer.

Matthew J. Glazer ’06 is a government concentrator in Winthrop House. He is President of the Undergraduate Council.