Last year’s Undergraduate Council Presidential race seemed over before it started; this year’s contest couldn’t be more different. With five different tickets presenting compelling visions for the UC—whether in seriousness or in jest—students have many opportunities to make their voices heard on the Undergraduate Council (UC).
But one choice in particular stands out: The ticket of Benjamin P. Schwartz ’10 and Alneada D. Biggers ’10 has the vision and experience that make them uniquely prepared to lead the UC in the coming year. Schwartz and Biggers come from a diverse background that involves leadership both in the UC and out. Schwartz has served as Vice-Chair of the Student Activities Committee (SAC) and College Events Board (CEB), while Biggers is President of the Association of Black Harvard Women (ABHW) and Secretary of the CEB. This rich and varied background is reflected in the intricacy, practicality, and sense of their platforms on social space, alcohol policy, and H1B visas, to name just a few.
Schwartz and Biggers are joined by a crowded and capable field of rivals. The candidacies of Roger G. Waite ’10 and Alexandra A. Petri ’10 and of Michael C. Koenigs ’09 and Aneliese K. Palmer ’12 offer a refreshing comical perspective on UC politics. Their parodies are incisive, and their policy proposals—which range from permitting pets in dorm rooms to the installation of a Hapsburg prince—amusing. While we do not consider them viable options to run the Undergraduate Council (and the candidates themselves may agree with us), they have made an interesting contribution to the election process, and highlight the undying problem of the UC’s apparent irrelevance to many students.
Charles T. James ’09-’10 and Max H.Y. Wong ’10, on the other hand, raise serious and valuable points on important issues like Ad Board reform and financial aid. It is admirable that they have chosen to turn their own experiences with Harvard’s sometimes dysfunctional bodies into concrete proposals, and their student-centered reform agenda is laudable, if sometimes far-fetched.
In particular, though, we are impressed by the experience and platform of UC Finance Committee Chair Andrea R. Flores ’10 and her running mate, Kia J. McLeod ’10. Flores has served admirably over the course of her UC tenure, choosing to serve on the Finance Committee over the flashier SAC—the traditional venue for aspiring politicos—and then working to generate the first UC budget surplus in years. She and McLeod have well thought-out policies—that in many cases are quite similar to those of Schwartz and Biggers—and would prove able stewards of the Undergraduate Council.
But while Schwartz and Biggers are not the only attractive choices, they are the best.
Both have a remarkable record of service in the past. As Chair of the CEB, Ben Schwartz worked to increase the body’s relevance and plan successful large-scale events that generated unprecedented enthusiasm, like last year’s Yardfest. Alneada Biggers, on the other hand, brings an outsider’s perspective to the table. Having immersed herself in a wide range of Harvard activities, she offers an antidote to a UC that sometimes seems too insulated from the needs of average Harvard students.
More importantly, Schwartz and Biggers bring a vision for the future.
On the persistent issue of student social space, Schwartz and Biggers offer a concrete plan for success. Schwartz recently introduced legislation to the UC that proposes facilitating student use of the Adult Learning Center, Malkin Athletic Center, and The Democracy Center at 45 Mount Auburn Street for reasonable fees, while lowering the currently prohibitive cost of BAT teams and HUPD details. This immediate action, coupled with the ticket’s long-term goal or procuring a permanent student center, will hopefully address the unfortunate dearth of venues for student socializing.
In addition, Schwartz and Biggers are committed to addressing the unfair punishments and perverse incentives created by Harvard’s ill-conceived policy that holds student group leaders accountable for individuals who drink at their parties. As Vice-Chair of the Committee on House Life, Schwartz worked to create a committee to address the situation, and is committed to modifying the policy as President.
Schwartz has also been a steadfast advocate for international students and easing the difficulties they face in procuring H1B visas. Over the past semester, he has worked with the administration and the Woodbridge Society in efforts to have the College write letters on behalf of foreign students and provide them with legal help in navigating the complex lottery process.
Finally, Schwartz and Biggers propose small, yet meaningful, reforms that address the day-to-day concerns of students, like extending dining hall hours to help athletes with late practices, improving cross-registration, and extending the drop/add deadline. Their practical solutions represent the work of a ticket that understands the problems students face, and has the skills to address them.
Throughout their campaign and in their meeting with The Crimson, Schwartz and Biggers have demonstrated the poise and intelligence necessary to navigate administrative bureaucracies and rally student support.
We are excited by the prospect of their leadership.