In its final meeting of the semester last night, the Undergraduate Council passed the Harvard University Forum for Change Act (HUFC), which seeks to establish a public forum for interaction between students, the administration, and faculty in order to encourage community engagement at Harvard.
The proposal—which was drafted in response to a perceived lack of facilitated discussion on campus—will now be sent to President Drew G. Faust for approval.
As the proposal currently stands, the HUFC will be formally supported by the University and will meet twice a semester. The forum will include some individuals designated as regular members but will also be open to administrators, faculty, staff, students, and interested alumni.
However, various characteristics of the proposal are subject to change and UC President Senan Ebrahim ’12 will continue to meet with the administration through the summer.
“Things such as membership and the name for the forum are still up in the air,” Ebrahim said. “But the substance and the essence that are outlined are hopefully what will we be seeing next year.”
In creating the proposal, the Council looked to peer universities who have undertaken similar initiatives—including Princeton, Brown, and Columbia—and adopted various elements from each, creating a product that UC representatives said would be the best fit for Harvard’s unique decision-making structure.
The most significant way that HUFC will differ from forums at peer institutions is that it will also serve as an organizational tool for students interested in addressing on-campus issues.
“The establishments at other schools are really just a mouth piece for the administration.” Ebrahim said. “That is important, but we also want students, faculty, and those in the constituency to have a forum to voice their concerns because this facilitates actual progress on the issues that students care about.”
But Ebrahim did express apprehension about potential challenges that the forum may face.
“I am worried about physically implementing this meeting,” he said. “We are asking that about 30 of the busiest people on campus meet at one time and take the discussion seriously.”
Several concerns were also expressed within the legislation itself. These included the possibility that the forum would merely serve as a communication channel and not exercise any influence on University decision-making and that the forum will not become institutionalized in a way that will allow it to survive each president’s tenure.
Despite these challenges, the Council remained hopeful for the future of the forum, most notably pointing to its potential to expose top University decision-makers to student voices.
“Ultimately the same people will be making the same decisions, but this gives them a chance to ask students and faculty for their opinions,” said Ebrahim. “So in terms of how the forum gets used, I think it is up to administrators to decide if they want to be proactive.”
—Staff writer Rachael E. Apfel can be reached at email@example.com.