Asked to describe himself in three words, the classics concentrator-cum-Undergraduate Council presidential candidate takes a few moments of reflection and replies, “A human being.” Roger G. Waite ’10-’11 offered only a few words more, “To the best of my knowledge, I am a human being.” Then, he leaned back in his chair, silent.
A stereotypical UC presidential candidate he is not, Waite insists. Dressed in an argyle sweater and tie and sporting a full beard that he described as unkempt, Waite is intent on differentiating himself from the system that he and his running mate Alexandra A. Petri ’10 hope to overthrow.
Waite says that compared to other politicians, he is someone who enjoys listening much more than talking.
“I’m different,” he says, explaining that he holds “fairly unpopular views on campus.”
Waite arrived at the famously dubbed “Kremlin on the Charles” as a conservative from Chicago, Ill. He is heavily involved with the campus organization Harvard Right to Life, and the conservative publication The Harvard Salient.
As one of the many self-described outsider candidates in the 26-year history of the UC, Waite says that he was motivated into action by what he saw as the poor handling of last year’s party grant controversy.
“For years the administration had expressed concerns over the alcohol, but the UC did nothing to address it. So when [they] got rid of the party grant altogether, the UC created a mob-like hullabaloo,” he says, growing visibly animated for the first time in the interview. “I feel compelled [to run] by the circumstances.”
RETURNING TO TRADITION
The Waite-Petri campaign is adopting an age-old tradition of using their platform to advocate for the abolition of the Council. There is one caveat, however. “We’re going to invite a member of the House of Hapsburg to rule the student body indefinitely instead,” Waite says.
“I think that a member of the Royal Family would be in a much stronger position to negotiate with the administration and faculty,” he explains. “It’s much easier for Harvard to blow off a group of self-important undergrads than it is the House of Hapsburg.”
Digging into his jacket pocket, Waite presents a copy of “The Charter of 1650,” the document that established the mission and governing structure of the University.
“It says nothing of student governance and nothing about this nonsense of an Undergrad Council,” he says.
This plan is part of the campaign’s broader goal of returning Harvard to its “founding principles.”
Despite the fact that no American university has ever established a hereditary monarchy to rule over the student body, Waite says that this is certainly not an obstacle.
“Harvard is always on the forefront of change. We can set an example,” he says.
While one part of the Waite-Petri platform is devoted to the destruction of the UC, the other part contains expansive plans for crop cultivation.
They propose to use student activity fees to buy and cultivate arable land to produce foodstuffs—the proceeds of which would go toward funding student activities.
“Eventually, we can abolish the student activities fee entirely and rely entirely on the goodness of the land,” Waite says.
Potential locations for the campaign’s proposed land acquisition include both Canada and Allston.
In fact, Waite suggests that Allston residents may be more open to the less intrusive development project.
The platform includes contingencies for environmentalists as well, according to Waite.
“To improve sustainability, we will use technologies that have a lower carbon footprint, like oxen.”
Lest his campaign be relegated to “gag” status, Waite insists upon the complete seriousness of his candidacy.
“I don’t think my efforts are a comedy ticket,” he says. “I think it’s a way for mainstream campaigns to marginalize our serious message.”
A BETTER JOKE
Petri, a decidedly more put-together classics and English concentrator-turned-UC Vice-Presidential candidate, describes her goals differently than the top of the ticket.
“I believe in replacing the UC with a better joke—get it?”
Petri is an energetic and outgoing foil to the soft-spoken Waite, but he says that they were drawn together by their shared characteristics. “We’re both classic concentrators, and she’s much more female,” Waite says, adding, “Well, we are both very eccentric but eccentric in complementary ways.”
Neither Waite nor Petri had served on the UC prior to the start of the campaign, but they believe that their outsider status allows them to have a “comprehensive vision” for changing the UC, according to Waite.
“Between Roger and me, we have 40 years of experience outside of the UC, and we have really capitalized on that,” Petri said.
Petri says that she is passionate about bringing change to Harvard’s campus, but she would like to focus more on impacting student life now—before the Hapsburg prince arrives.
To that end, her primary goal as vice president is to establish a mandatory, annual “I Love The Thirties” dance in every House.
“There’ll be a dust bowl, kind of like a punch bowl, but more depressing. It’ll be great,” she said, laughing over the chatter in the Greenhouse Café.
She also has plans to make the campus drastically greener—literally.
“We plan on buying tons of green paint and replacing flesh-colored officials such as [University President] Drew G. Faust with greener individuals such as Yoda,” Petri stated.
DISJOINTED YET OPTIMISTIC
Since the campaign season opened seven days ago, undergraduates have been accosted by posters and flyers from a slate of highly active campaigns. Yet, there seems to be little activity originating from the Waite-Petri camp.
“We don’t believe in the conventional campaigning system,” Waite said.
It appears that Waite and Petri spent little time discussing the campaign together, at least not face-to-face. Petri says that they correspond primarily through e-mail—his phone number is not yet programmed in her cell phone.
“We have this thing where we don’t appear at the same time. We don’t do it intentionally, but it just happens. It’s actually because we’re the same person. It’s one of the best-kept secrets of the campaign,” Petri reveals.
Describing his campaign as a “slow-starter,” Waite hinted at plans for a dramatic finish but declined to discuss them in greater detail.
“We’re planning a number of events that, I think, will gain attention and increase excitement about our ticket,” Waite said, with a smile.
During Thursday’s debate, the pair surprised students by announcing their intention to drop out of the race the next day at noon.
But in an interview on Friday, Petri retracted this statement. “We’re in this for the long haul,” she said emphatically. “We are the change you’re Waite-ing for.” She paused, then adds, “That’s actually one of our rejected slogans.”