Zaidi and Lee: Helping Realize Harvard’s Promise

Julia V. Guren

Every election season we hear the same rhetoric: “the UC doesn’t work;” “the UC needs an overhaul;” “if you elect us, we’ll solve all of the UC’s problems!” We, like so many other students, are tired of this kind of thinking. Students are not merely demanding changes within the Undergraduate Council (UC) structure; we are seeking a bold new vision for student life on our campus: the fulfillment of Harvard’s Promise.

From the moment we opened up our admissions letters, we were promised a college that would provide each and every one of us with inclusive communities, engaging relationships, healthy lives, an inspiring education, and ample opportunities to lead and serve. Unfortunately, this promise remains unfulfilled, and it will take an exceptional pair of leaders to help us achieve it.

Ali A. Zaidi ’08 and Eddie Y. Lee ’08 are those student leaders.

We believe in Ali and Eddie because they have a proven track record of creating positive change. In his first few months as a UC representative, Ali stood up for workers’ rights on the floor of the Council and also began working on improving the quality of instruction at Harvard. Furthermore, Ali initiated the “Greener Harvard” series of policy papers drawing attention to our responsibility to the environment. Exemplifying his personal commitment to responding to the voices of the student body, this year Ali initiated and spearheaded the campaign to mitigate the impact of the Malkin Athletic Center renovation by keeping it open for one more month.

We believe in Ali and Eddie because their leadership—not just within the UC, but of the wider community of Harvard undergraduates—has provided them with the experience and know-how necessary to address the real problems of Harvard undergraduate life. Ali has served as a peer advising fellow, vice president of the Harvard Health Policy Society, a mentor for the Phillips Brooks House Association Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment program, and is currently the president of the Harvard Islamic Society. Eddie is a board member of Students Taking on Poverty and co-founder of the human rights group Liberty in North Korea. Having personally worked with Ali and Eddie, we are convinced that they understand the critical role played by student groups on campus and how to best help them accomplish their goal of enriching student life.

We need the type of results that Ali and Eddie will provide now more than ever. Harvard is currently at a critical juncture in its institutional development. The new Women’s Center, the tenure of an interim president, the Curricular Review, and the push into Allston are all ongoing challenges that will define the course of our community for decades.

In contrast to administrators and professors, student leaders are only around for one or two years at a time. In this climate of transition, student leaders must fight the tendency to think purely within the scope of their time; they must plan for the future. To this end, the vision of Harvard’s Promise provides us with a framework necessary to take measurable, achievable steps toward institutionalizing such long-term changes. Anything less would be irresponsible.

To this end, Ali and Eddie believe in harnessing the power of the entire student body rather than the three dozen members of the UC. Through dialogue with student groups and informal conversations with peers and faculty, Ali and Eddie will work with the members of the Harvard community to bring about lasting change. It is this grassroots mobilization that forms the core of their vision; and it has already begun.

How will Ali and Eddie achieve Harvard’s promise? To make Harvard more affordable, they support online coursepacks and the Course Cost Assistance Program. To improve Harvard’s educational experience, they will push for midterm FeedForward reviews for teaching fellows, a pass/fail first semester for freshmen (and the option to switch from pass/fail to graded courses before reading period for the rest of us). To promote student health and wellness, they believe there should be staggered dining hall hours and gyms in the Yard. To improve campus community, they advocate reducing room and equipment costs for student groups, investing in House study spaces, expanding collaborative student group and House service efforts, and student-driven selection of the Campus Life Fellow.

When they push for these goals, it won’t be merely through UC policy papers but principally through the combined will of the undergraduate body as it demands change. This is the grassroots platform of Zaidi and Lee, and the voices of students, thousands strong, will turn this vision into the fulfillment of Harvard’s Promise.

Ali and Eddie are the leaders Harvard needs because they believe in the promise of a Harvard that is truly great. They share a vision for a community that is greater than the Harvard of today: one that is a rich, engaging, inspiring, healthy, and inclusive Harvard that will not only reward its own students, but positively transform the world we are commissioned to lead. They will dedicate themselves, and we will be better because of it.

So, vote for Ali and Eddie and join them. Talk to them, work with them, add your voice and strength to theirs and join your fellow college members so that together we may realize Harvard’s Promise.

Nana M. Ayenesu ’07 is an engineering sciences concentrator in Lowell House. Denise Diaz ’08 is a history and science concentrator in Quincy House. Erica L. Farber ’07 is a biochemical sciences concentrator in Lowell House.

A FEW QUESTIONS FOR ALI AND EDDIE

If you could do one thing as UC president what would it be?
Use community service as a tool to bring students together

What is the most important quality you will bring to the office?
A vision for where we need to be ten years from now and policies for next semester

What has been the UC’s greatest recent success?
Teaming withe the Environmental Action Committee to fight climate change

What has been the UC’s greatest recent failure?
Attracting women and minority representatives

What is your favorite dining hall food?
Fro yo and a hearty salad