Five months after winning the Harvard Law School student government presidency on a platform to rewrite the student government constitution and resign before Commencement, President-in-Absentia Matthew P. Gelfand, who graduated last spring, has completed a draft of the new constitution at last.
Gelfand and his vice president and current acting president Jordan B. Roberts hope to release a final draft of the constitution and ratify it before the October student government elections.
Gelfand wrote the constitution over the summer with input from a volunteer reform committee of current and just-graduated law students. In May, Gelfand administered a survey to the student body about the role the student government should play at the Law School. He said he incorporated much of what the respondents—nearly 400 students—expressed in their answers into the draft of the new constitution.
The constitution now frames the student government as one focused on representing students’ interests rather than on making decisions, though it would have a committee in charge of planning events and would continue to oversee the formation of student groups, among other tasks.
To reflect this ideological shift, Gelfand plans to rename the student government as the Harvard Law School Student Representative Board and formally make all students at the Law School members of the Student Representative Board.
“I don’t know the history of when all of these organizations started being called governments, but I don’t see student government at the Law School...as governing the student body,” said Gelfand, who is currently working in New York University’s general counsel’s office on a fellowship. “I think the best role for the organization is an advocacy one.”
Although the new constitution redefines the body’s principles, it does not address the role that student government should play in allocating funds to student organizations.
“That was by far the most controversial aspect of the survey,” Gelfand said. “It was just hard to come up with something that everybody would be happy with, and I couldn’t in good conscience put forward a constitution that had a specific procedure on that issue.”