Hooligan Bids for Presidency

With an Alaska native as his running mate, a comedic video director who would not even be allowed to serve his entire term aims for the UC’s top spot using the McCain strategy

Even Michael C. Koenigs ’09 acknowledges his campaign for Undergraduate Council president is a joke.

While his opponents flog proposals for Administrative Board reform or more campus social space, Koenigs has made a signature issue out of housing small animals, such as ants or baby chickens, in dorm rooms.

And with Alaska native Aneliese K. Palmer ’12 filling the vice presidential slot, the pairing bears an uncanny resemblance to the Republican ticket in the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

But though they’re a long-shot to win, victory isn’t their goal, particularly because, as a senior, Koenigs could not serve his full term and graduate on time.

Their campaign is an extension of “Harvard Hooligans”—a troupe of five roommates, who produce “goofy” videos to highlight a less serious side of Harvard—and as Koenigs notes, a UC campaign provides fantastic fodder for Hooligan projects.

“We want students to take our message of joy rather than the message that the platforms send,” Koenigs says. “We hope students don’t take us seriously.”

FACEBOOK BEGINNINGS

In enumerating his sources of inspiration in his campaign for UC president, Koenigs points first to a fateful encounter with President-elect Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention this summer.

“The electricity, the power that went through my body, said, ‘Go forth. Go make a change.’ Obama passed the torch to me,” he says.

Once back on campus, he began perusing Facebook for freshman girls with running-mate potential.

After viewing profiles for hundreds of students, Koenigs says he finally stumbled upon one that was “young and relatively inexperienced.”

“Aneliese stood out because she’s compassionate, she’s friendly, and she’s good with children,” he says, adding that regardless of Palmer’s youth, “she’s a maverick.”

Koenigs promptly poked the native of Eagle River, Alaska and sent her a friend request.

Palmer says she readily accepted the advances after sifting through Koenigs’s pictures and finding one of his roommates particularly attractive.

Koenigs came to Palmer’s door with a single white rose and a proposition to join his “epic” effort.

“It was really nice,” Palmer fondly recalls.

But at a joint interview last Monday, the candidates were still getting to know each other. Koenigs seemed surprised, for example, when Palmer mentioned a fondness for skiing, though he was certainly enthusiastic.

“Me too!” he exclaimed. “We should go skiing together!”

PET PROGRAMS

The campaign’s chief proposal stems from the candidates’ traumatic experiences moving to Harvard, when both had to part with integral members of their families.

Koenigs says he was forced to choose between his beloved ant farm, with 800 insects, and his education due to the College’s “unreasonable” restrictions on pets.

“They weren’t even red ants,” Koenigs says, feigning disbelief. “They weren’t dangerous!”

And Palmer says she has a similarly personal stake in changing the policy, having had to leave behind the chickens she had raised on her farm in Eagle River.

Koenigs says he does not want incoming freshmen to suffer as he and Palmer have.

“[Harvard] should not force students to make a choice between school and their pets!” he says, before launching into a “three-pronged plan,” which rests heavily on amending housing restrictions so that students may bring with them to college small pets, such as, “puppies, gerbils, ants, and baby chickens.”

The second part of the Koenigs-Palmer platform appears to be more serious, calling for the College’s transition from fossil fuels to sustainable, energy resources.

But in keeping with the campaign’s theme, the proposed changes are outlandish, involving the full conversion of energy consumption on campus to soybean or corn oil within two years.

Koenigs says he drew inspiration for a campus-wide environmental push after successfully forcing his roommates to change their “prodigal” behavior, which he says was contributing to the “destruction of the earth.”

“I said to myself, ‘Look, I can make a difference on a small level,’” Koenig says, adding that that success inspired him to push for Harvard to get on “proven renewable energy sources within two years.”

In addition to renewable energy sources, the Koenigs campaign tackles Harvard’s financial aid program, which they feel falls short of being comprehensive.

“It’s like a drip in a big pond,” says Palmer of Harvard’s new initiative, citing the ticket’s desire to cut tuition by $6,000, except for parents with exceptionally high incomes, for whom Koenigs has other plans.

“We’ll charge the hell out of parents who make more than $2 million,” he says.

Though much of their vision extends beyond the scope of the UC, the Koenigs-Palmer campaign has plans for UC reform as well.

“I’d like there to be more ceremony—more crowns, maybe,” he says, chuckling intermittently. “It should be fun and visible. More bowing would be nice.”

A FLYING START

Unlike their opponents, some of whom rely on dozens of students to hand out fliers and poster, Koenigs and Palmer have no set campaign strategy.

“We’re winging it,” Palmer says.

Instead, the two have created a Facebook event page and posted videos on harvardhooligans.com, the home page for Koenigs’ comedy troupe.

Koenigs says handing out flyers and holding up signs outside the Science Center, which his opponents began doing last Monday, will not win over students.

“We respect [students’] intelligence, the other candidates do not,” Koenigs says, adding that his message will be “highly targeted and will include statistics.”

But asked to elaborate later, Koenigs had an unorthodox explanation, saying his chief hope for the campaign was getting the most laughs—not the most votes.

“We really just want to bring joy to Harvard children during the Christmas season,” he says.