Over the past five years, voter turnout in the Undergraduate Council Presidential election has ranged from 30-54 percent. This is comparable to our peer institutions, but we can do better.
It’s so easy to vote. There are no age restrictions, no four-hour lines, no absentee overnight shipping costs, and no voter registration forms. Voting takes less than two minutes from the moment that you receive the link in your inbox to the moment that you cast your ballot. When you think about it, you spend more than two minutes waiting in line to get your food at Flyby, to leave Lamont Library, or to get through the Science Center Plaza construction. Even as time-pressed Harvard students, we can all find the time to vote in this UC election.
This UC election is unlike many in recent campus history. In addition to voting between four tickets for UC President and Vice President, you also have the opportunity to vote on three referenda that address large campus issues. Do you support Harvard divesting its endowment from the fossil fuel industry in order to avert further environmental and human rights crises due to climate change? Do you agree that Harvard College should re-examine its sexual assault policies and practices? Do you support creating a social choice fund within Harvard's endowment, thereby providing an opportunity for donors to choose whether their contributions to Harvard are invested for positive social impact? The four tickets and three referenda provide an unprecedented opportunity to directly engage with the UC election and to express your voice to the Harvard community and administration.
As students of Harvard College, we have an obligation to be active members of our Harvard community. Whether we can usually be found in the classroom, our houses and dorms, or out in the larger Cambridge community, Harvard’s academic and social policies directly influence our college experience. There are many campus issues at stake in this UC election: academic integrity policies, library hours, shuttle times, dining issues, sexual assault and disciplinary policies, House renewal, final exam hours, student organization funding policies, career resources, investment practices, and administration accessibility. If you care about any of these issues, please vote in the UC election starting Tuesday at noon!
You may be asking yourself: Why would I vote in the UC elections if I don’t understand how it impacts my daily life? For starters, the next President and Vice President will be leading all 49 elected House and Yard representatives, as they seek to improve all of our student experiences. They won’t change everything in a year. As we know, change at Harvard moves through a slow, deliberative process, but it is important which initiatives are prioritized. The UC leaders define the issues that the UC works on for the next year. You should vote for the ticket that prioritizes the campus concerns relevant to you.
Perhaps you are worried about committing to one candidate’s platform. A vote is not a be-all and end-all endorsement, but rather an expression of who you’d prefer to lead the UC next year, and a commitment to the Harvard community. At the end of the day, remember that the leaders of your representative student government are committed to representing you and your peers.
Every vote makes a difference. Every vote represents the stance of one student stakeholder. With four tickets and three ballot initiatives, your vote will have an immediate, visible impact. Demonstrate to your peers and the administration where you stand on these issues.
Students do have power here on campus. We can be as powerful as we want to be. You may choose to spend your personal energy as part of the UC or not. It is by no means the only outlet for student power. However, if you don’t vote, then our collective strength loses power. If you don’t vote, then the student voice diminishes. If you don’t vote, then you aren’t deciding who will help lead the fight in the UC for your issues and concerns.
Voting is only one of the many ways of affecting change here at Harvard. Just look at the three student coalitions leading referenda this semester. They have been able to engage over 700 students each around these important campus issues. All students have the potential to help voice our concerns.
Your concerns are important. Your voice is important. Your community is important. Your vote is important. Please take two minutes and vote in this election.
Vote for UC President/Vice President and the three referenda at uc.fas.harvard.edu from noon on Tuesday, November 13 to noon on Friday, November 16.
Carolyn W. Chou ’13, a sociology concentrator in Pforzheimer House, is President of the Phillips Brooks House Association. Danny P. Bicknell ’13, an environmental science and public policy concentrator in Mather House, is President of the Undergraduate Council. Jenny Ye ’13, a computer science concentrator in Kirkland House, is President of the Institute of Politics.