Law School Student Body President To Extend Term Through Summer

Though he will graduate from Harvard this week, Law School Student Government President Matthew P. Gelfand will extend his term through the summer in order to rewrite the organization’s constitution.

Gelfand, who won a heated, three-way race in March, triumphed over second-year students with his platform of “Win. Fix. Resign.” and a promise to make the operations of the student government more transparent.

“Other people have hobbies. I have the student government constitution,” Gelfand joked.

Gelfand initially planned to write the new constitution during his first eight weeks in office. However, after receiving nearly 400 responses to a survey about the role student government should play, Gelfand explained in an email to Law School students that he did not want to rush the reform process.

“I was blown away,” Gelfand said. “I mean, some people wrote me what amounted to essays about their feelings on the issues, so I was very heartened by the response.”

In the survey, a strong majority of students agreed that student government meetings should be open to the student body, that its leadership should release any documents related to its operation, and that the new constitution, which will be completed by and voted on in August or September, should be ratified by the students.

Though most students appreciated the variety of organizations and journals on campus, according to survey results, nearly 70 percent supported some reorganization of student groups and event planning.

“There could be better coordination in activities that organizations have, and I think that working to create a system that will help people figure out if they’re planning a similar event for the same day as another organization is a very simple fix that hasn’t been implemented that could be implemented,” Gelfand said.

Law School Dean Martha L. Minow said that the school supports diverse student organizations but acknowledged that scheduling conflicts have in the new student spaces in Wasserstein Hall.

“The new building has both the opportunities for more space, but then the opportunities for more scheduling conflicts because more events will occur at the same time, so it’s something that we’re looking at,” Minow said.

Student government representative and SJD student Daniel B. Vargas, who ran against Gelfand for the presidency, wrote in an email that he supported Matt’s agenda to revamp the constitution.

“Writing a good constitution could be an important step to restore the credibility and to affirm the independence of an institution that for a long time would do nothing more than distribute cookies and passively broadcast the instructions of the Administration,” Vargas wrote. “The Student Government elections showed that the HLS student body wants much more than that—it wants to be heard and to be taken seriously.”

—Staff writer Juliet Bailin can be reached at jbailin@college.harvard.edu.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: May 22

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Matthew P. Gelfand received more than 90 percent of the votes in the Harvard Law School student government election in March. In fact, though Gelfand won more than 90 percent of the vote in an unofficial poll conducted by the website Above the Law, the vote tally of the election at the Law School was not announced publicly.

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