Change: it is the message that swept President Barack Obama to the White House twice. It is also the message that this year’s Undergraduate Council presidential hopefuls are counting on to deliver their own victories.
All four candidates—Michael C. George ’14, Spenser R. Goodman ’14, Tara Raghuveer ’14, and Akshay M. Sharma ’14—have served on the council, but now say it is time to reform the way the UC does business.
George, who is also a Crimson news editor, said that it is time to “rebuild the council.” He pointed to his selection of a UC outsider for vice president as evidence of running on what he considers to be a “revolutionary ticket,” despite his time on the council’s executive board. While advocating for reform, George said that he also recognized the council’s achievements, which include extending Lamont Library’s hours during reading periods and final exams.
George said that his platform aims to make structural changes that include splitting the UC’s internal committees, making the referendum process more transparent, and formalizing channels of communication between different University interests.
“I’ve spent a lot of time on the executive board, and it takes experience with the inner working of the UC to reform it,” he said.
The Sharma duo—Akshay and vice presidential candidate Akanksha Sharma ’14—emphasize their aim of synthesizing student opinion to bring about change. Akanksha said the ticket would utilize Harvard’s existing online registration tool to collect feedback from all students. Although she said the two would fight for community-building initiatives that include school-wide Stein clubs and concerts, their main aim would be to engage the council in addressing University-wide issues that emerge from student feedback.
“The UC can, and should, be doing more than just pet projects,” said Sharma. “We should be focused on things beyond student life. These include big issues like mental health, sense of community.”
Akanksha echoed this dissatisfaction with the current scope of UC initiatives.
“The things that need to be advocated for are not,” she said. “We need to reform a body that primarily focuses on funding.”
Tara Raghuveer ’14, this year’s only female presidential candidate, said she sees the UC as “increasingly irrelevant.”
“People vote unanimously,” she said. “I am blown away when we do that. There is not a level of government where that is appropriate. I want to fix that culture of needing to get out of the room by 8 p.m.”
Raghuveer’s proposals for reform include increased transparency for UC grants, the establishment of an online grants portal, and the creation of a forum where students, faculty, staff, and community members can gather to discuss big-picture issues such as investment and hiring practices.
Goodman, the self-proclaimed “social life candidate,” said he is taking a unique approach to reform by focusing on improving social life through campus-wide events and community building.
“The three other tickets have gone toward this student advocacy approach, but I want to take us into a different direction,” said Goodman, who chairs the Social Programs Committee and has worked on the College Events Board to plan Yard Fest.
He said he aims to increase school-wide programming by planning large events throughout the year, increasing funding to student groups, and better promoting the concerts, plays, and events that already occur on campus.
The presidential candidates will debate their proposals alongside their running mates Thursday evening at the Institute of Politics’ John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at 8 p.m.
—Staff writer Quinn D. Hatoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.