This year’s Undergraduate Council election was a marked departure from elections of years past, which were often characterized by much student cynicism. With over 3,600 ballots cast compared to last year’s 2,730, Harvard undergraduates not only chose their new UC leaders, but also made bold statements by passing three referenda on important campus issues. We congratulate Tara Raghuveer ’14 and Jen Q. Y. Zhu ’14 for their victory in this year’s election, and we hope that they follow up on the student body’s wishes expressed by the successful referenda.
Raghuveer and Zhu won their election by a landslide, receiving 533 more votes than Michael C. George ’14 and Nicole E. Granath ’15, who finished in second place and were endorsed by The Crimson. This wide margin demonstrates the large amount of faith placed by students in their new president and vice president to represent them and the issues they deem important. The successful running mates should also be credited for successfully using social media and a large campaign staff to draw over 10 percent more students out to vote, a welcome change from the disappointing turnout of the previous election.
Raghuveer and Zhu were not the only Harvard students who scored a major victory in this election. We applaud the efforts of Harvard students who coordinated their efforts in organizing the placement of the referenda featured on the ballot, as well as their subsequent campaigns to have them passed. The student body has demonstrated that issues concerning responsible investment, fossil fuel divestment, and Harvard’s sexual assault policy are important to them: All three measures received over 70 percent of the student body’s support, and the referendum on Harvard’s sexual assault policy passed with a staggering 85 percent of students voting affirmatively. We hope that Raghuveer and Zhu will incorporate these issues into their agenda and prioritize them as the new leaders of the UC and representatives of Harvard undergraduates.
Although Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds has stated that our school’s sexual assault policy is unlikely to change in the near future, this should not deter Raghuveer and Zhu from taking up the banner of reforming our school’s policy. Indeed, the Harvard administration’s reluctance to take action on an issue which is clearly important to students is an instance in which student leadership is particularly important.
Raghuveer and Zhu ran a successful campaign demanding that the UC become more relevant in the lives of the students. Their election promises include making the UC more welcoming to women, pushing for the creation of a women, gender, and sexuality department, and the implementation of online student feedback systems and discussion forums. These proposals have merit, although some may be difficult to implement. Nevertheless, we sincerely hope, in light of the significance and highly contested nature of this election, that the new elects are able to translate their campaign promises from paper to action.
We have in the past expressed our disappointment and dissatisfaction with the UC. Although we remain skeptical of the role and potential of the UC, we hope that Raghuveer and Zhu will prove us and other skeptics wrong.