UC Debates Its Own Relevance and Efficacy

Undergraduate Council representatives took a turn from their prepared agenda Sunday, openly criticizing their student government in light of voter turnout numbers in last week’s presidential election.

UC members said that this lack of enthusiasm will be one of the problems that Ava Nasrollahzadeh ’16 and Dhruv P. Goyal ’16, the Council’s next President and Vice President, will face. They will be sworn into their offices in two weeks.

“With this new term, we need to rethink how the UC itself works,” the Council’s parliamentarian William Oh ’18 said.

Prompted on why just under half of undergraduates voted in the elections, representatives began to question the efficacy of the Council as a whole, the responsibility of individual representatives, and how problems could even be solved.

“I think a lot of people didn’t turn out to vote because they thought it wouldn't really do anything,” Mather House representative Domenica A. Merino ’17 said.

According to many representatives, the Council’s structure reinforced this apathy. They said general meetings offered little chance for representatives to discuss how to reform the UC and increase its relevance.

Dunster representative Daniel V. Banks ’17 suggested that the Council focus less on adhering to a strict agenda and allocate time for broader and more open conversations.

Others said that members were not performing their duties, and noted that representatives need to first ensure they are meeting their responsibilities before making more sweeping reforms.

"Oftentimes, we don’t do what we're supposed to do even competently or adequately,” Oliver W. Kim ’16, the Council’s Student Life Committee chair, said. As an example, he pointed to representatives’ low attendance rate at a presidential sexual assault task force meeting.

Gus A. Mayopoulos ’15, the Council’s current president, openly acknowledged imperfection within the body, and encouraged representatives to criticize particulars.

“I am very aware that the UC is an imperfect organization. It was imperfect when I got here. It’s imperfect now that we’re basically leaving,” Mayopoulos said.

Others appeared more skeptical about how the UC could address problems, and requested specific questions to answers or proposals for change.

“We say this every year…. We say we need to talk about the UC,” Tamara S. Fernando ’16, UC Student Initiative Committee Chair, said.

Cabot representative Jacob R. Steinberg-Otter ’16 advocated that the UC implement change in small increments, such as the reintroduction of the UC historian and more advocacy for issues affecting minorities.

“We’re never [going to] see the day where the UC is a fully relevant body at Harvard, but we can be one step along a path towards that dream,” he said of current representatives.

—Staff writer Noah J. Delwiche can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ndelwiche.