As voting for the Undergraduate Council president begins today, candidates Tom D. Hadfield ’08 and Ryan A. Petersen ’08 are emerging as the frontrunners of this year’s six-way race, the largest in recent memory.
The two tickets have differentiated themselves most on defining the UC’s relationship to University Hall and how best to advocate for students.
Throughout the campaign, Petersen has stressed direct advocacy to the administration on behalf of students—highlighting his close relationships with administrators and faculty. In contrast, Hadfield has touted a less bureaucratic approach to UC decision-making, frequently criticizing the council’s current emphasis on position papers and an over-reliance on the administration.
Petersen, who is running with Matthew D. Sundquist ’09, and Hadfield, who is running with Adam Goldenberg ’08, have spent the most money on their campaigns, have registered the largest number of supporters, and have garnered the majority of the large student group endorsements.
Goldenberg and Hadfield are both Crimson editorial editors.
The two tickets have faced off in front of the Science Center every day since the start of campaigning, with the other candidates making less frequent appearances. Petersen and Hadfield are the only two candidates who have spent over $200—half of their allotted budgets of $400 each—according to Joshua G. Allen ’09, the head of the Election Commission.
Petersen said that his staff consists of about 200 supporters, and according to Hadfield’s campaign manager Katherine A. Beck ’08, his staff is more than 150 strong.
Petersen has been endorsed by the Association of Black Harvard Women and the Harvard College Democrats, and Hadfield has picked up the endorsements of the Black Students Association, the Harvard Republican Club, the South Asian Association, and The Harvard Crimson.
But among UC insiders, the Petersen-Sundquist ticket has swept the competition, garnering the support of current UC president John S. Haddock ’07, vice president Annie R. Riley ’07, and other prominent council members including Treasurer Benjamin W. Milder ’08, Financial Committee Chair Lori M. Adelman ’08, and UC Secretary Andrea R. Flores ’10, some of whom also serve on Petersen’s campaign staff.
The restructuring of the UC, one of the defining issues of last year’s campaign, has resurfaced in this election, with current UC members looking to move beyond last year’s reform debate toward a renewed focus on student advocacy.
“I personally believe that we spent a year working really hard to make sure that the UC is restructured and ready to start focusing on the students,” said Riley, who led the effort to spin off the UC’s College Life Committee into the College Events Board last semester.
Speaking to Petersen-Sundquist supporters at a rally in Leverett Junior Common Room yesterday evening, Haddock said that Petersen’s relationship with administrators will allow the UC to build on his and Riley’s reform efforts.
“The gift tax is a result of the dedication of people like Ryan and Matt. Both of them can just energize people so much and really capture the ears of administrators in the ways most people can’t do,” said Haddock, referring to yesterday’s announcement by Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 that student groups will be reimbursed for taxes on their gift funds. [See story, page A1.]
The timing of Gross’ announcement, which reverses last week’s decision not to consider reimbursement to student groups, is a political windfall to Petersen, who has led the effort to repeal the tax as chair of the UC’s Student Affairs Committee.
Timing has worked in Hadfield’s favor, as well. On Thursday, three coursepacks went online at Crimsonreading.com, a site created by Hadfield at the start of this term—a first step toward fulfilling a campaign promise to lower coursepack costs or make them available online.
In an otherwise tame presidential debate last Thursday, Hadfield pulled no punches while questioning Petersen on the feasibility of his platform. Hadfield noted that in order to implement each of Petersen’s 58 campaign proposals, he would have to address a different issue every four days.
In fact, Petersen’s Web site lists 56 proposals.
One student group could not choose a particular candidate over the other—the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered, and Supporters Alliance (BGLTSA) endorsed both tickets last night.
“After a lengthy debate and an evenly-divided board, we simply could not choose a single ticket because both sets of candidates have strong commitments to the BGLTQ community,” their statement read.
Trailing the two frontrunners are the campaigns of Amadi P. Anene ’08 and Ali A. Zaidi ’08, both UC insiders campaigning to broaden the council’s vision and impact.
Anene, who is running with Kyle A. De Beausset ’08-’09, has been the only candidate to consistently emphasize racial and gender diversity as a major concern. The Black Men’s Forum endorsed Anene, citing his involvement in the creation of the Women’s Center and the “Vote or Die” campaign, which seeks to increase minority representation on the UC.
De Beausset has criticized the other candidates for caring only about “electing themselves.” The candidates has also indicated that they would push to lead a broad analysis of student life, suggesting the establishment of an “extracurricular review.” They have also indicated that they would involve the UC in wider political debates on campus, such as the one over the genocide in Darfur.
Anene has listed about 20 official campaign staffers, according to Allen of the Election Commission. Campaigns are required to submit names of their staff members to Allen.
Zaidi’s platform of community building emphasizes “healthy lives” and “inspiring education.” Zaidi and running mate Eddie Y. Lee ’08, who have both been leaders of campus religious and ethnic student groups, have won the endorsement of the Asian American Association, the Chinese Students Association, Native Americans at Harvard College, and the Society of Arab Students.
Zaidi has sustained the greatest number of campaign violations thus far—185 points—for infractions including illegal postering and early campaigning via e-mail and the Facebook. Four hundred points result in disqualification from the race.
At Thursday’s debate, Petersen, Hadfield, and Anene all listed Zaidi as their second choice when asked which ticket they would endorse after their own.
Hadfield expressed support for both the Anene and Zaidi platforms yesterday, echoing the tickets’ slogans in his praise.
“All the candidates believe in ‘Harvard’s Promise’ and I think it is an excellent vision. I also believe in a ‘Culture of Collaboration,’” he said. “I hope that all of these candidates will stay on [the UC] and we can incorporate ideas from everyone’s platforms.”
RESTRUCTURING OR DESTRUCTION?
The dismantling and total overhaul of the UC have been the platforms of Tim R. Hwang ’08 and Brian S. Gillis ’07-’08, respectively, setting their single-issue tickets apart from the pack.
Gillis lists himself and Morgan C. Wimberly ’08, his press-shy running mate, as his only official supporters, according to Allen.
“I don’t see myself winning this election,” said Gillis, “but I do see myself presenting an issue.” Under Gillis’ proposed restructuring, Hadfield would serve as head administrator of the UC and Petersen would be chief advocate.
This, Gillis said during Thursday’s debate, would play to their relative strengths.
Hwang, who has spent none of his allotted budget, according to Allen, has continuously called for the dismantling of the UC. Endorsed by The Harvard Salient, he has asked the UC to address why the council is universally “ignored and resented” by the student body.
The campaigns will be out in full force for the next four days, until voting closes on Thursday. Although the weekend momentum has been important for the outcome of the election historically, the campaigns will have to maintain steam and work to get out the vote over the next few days.
“Nothing ends until Thursday at noon,” Riley told Petersen supporters yesterday.