Senan Ebrahim ’12 and Bonnie Cao ’12, the immediate past president and vice president of the Undergraduate Council, ran their campaign in 2010 on the promise of changing the status quo by amplifying student voices. The hallmark of their platform was a grand vision of a meeting for students from all schools of the University to present their grievances on any issue, big or small, to the University’s top leaders. They called it the Forum for Change.
In the months since Ebrahim and Cao left office, after holding one session of a modified version of their forum at the end of their term, the Forum for Change itself has seen more change than the University.
The idea of the open forum has been scrapped in exchange for a committee called the Task Force on the Student Voice. Of its 16 members, half are students. It does not discuss issues per se, but how to eventually hear students’ thoughts on those issues.
The evolution from the confrontational forum to the cozy committee is emblematic of a new approach on the part of the UC’s 2012 leaders, President Danny P. Bicknell ’13 and Vice President Pratyusha Yalamanchi ’13.
Bicknell and Yalamanchi profess a belief that often, the best way to acheive students’ goals is not to fight administrators but to befriend them.
EASING THE TENSION
During the thirty years that the UC has existed, its relationship with College administrators has swung from combative to cooperative and back again repeatedly.
This semester, Bicknell said, members of the Council have worked on extending an olive branch to College administrators, an approach that he believes has worked. He said the UC has earned more respect from campus officials.
“The UC has gone a long way to being more credible with the administration: going deep on big issues, having conversations that are necessary,” he said.
David H. A. LeBoeuf ’13, the outgoing UC Rules Committee chair, advocated for a combination of antagonism and accord. But he said that the balance of that “healthy tension” shifts each time that new leaders take over the Council.
In his view, the incumbent leaders, Bicknell and Yalamanchi, whom he campaigned against as a vice presidential candidate in the fall, have pursued a more cooperative relationship with College administrators than he favors.
“I personally would like to see a bit more pushback, but the current leaders are more collaborative,” said LeBoeuf, who is also an inactive Crimson news editor. He said that he trusted that Bicknell and Yalamanchi’s decision to engage with administrators cooperatively was a strategic choice to further their goals for the UC and the student body.
Bicknell said that creating mutually respectful relationships did not mean that the UC would indiscriminately cooperate with College leaders. Instead, he said the ties established now will allow the UC to maintain a good working relationship even when differences in opinion arise.
“Sometimes the administration isn’t aligned with the students,” he said. “But it’s important to maintain respect and understand the motivating factors and stakeholders. As UC reps, our motivating factors are students.”
A COLLABORATIVE AGENDA