On Sunday, the Undergraduate Council passed a resolution to place a referendum question asking whether Pusey library “should be transformed into a freshman-oriented social space” on this month’s UC election ballot. While this question is assured consideration by the student body, three other questions proposed by students are currently gathering the 670 signatures required to secure a ballot spot. These questions ask whether the College should essentially prevent membership in all-male final clubs, whether the administration should open sexual assault task force meetings to students, and whether students should stop having breakfast meetings.
When they vote for UC President, students will have the opportunity to vote yes or no on these referenda. If more than 50 percent of the student body votes, and the referendum receives majority support, then the administration has a mandate to acknowledge the result and consider the proposal.
The UC referendum process has the potential to bring about significant change, or at least to bring important issues to light. Neither the Pusey proposal nor the breakfast question, however, is serious enough to merit inclusion on this year’s November ballot. It's particularly troubling that the UC, with its power automatically to place an item on the ballot with a two-thirds vote, has given the former a rubber stamp at the expense of questions that actually deserve space and thought.
The biggest problem with a change to Pusey is a limitation we have pointed out in previous editorials—namely, that underage students are not able to consume alcohol in College-sanctioned social spaces. This issue severely curtails Pusey’s viability as a social space, particularly one that could plausibly compete with existing ones that do allow for alcohol consumption, such as final clubs and fraternities.
Furthermore, the feasibility of the proposed plan is also debatable. Even UC representatives have raised this concern: Student Life Committee Chair Oliver W. Kim ’16, an inactive Crimson editorial editor, said he has tried and failed in years past to turn parts of the Pusey Library into a student nap space. Moreover, the referendum makes no mention of what to do with the books and collections currently in Pusey. As none of these logistical details have been discussed yet, the chances of this referendum influencing the administration are low indeed.
The Pusey proposal is also largely unnecessary. The College is already in the midst of creating a new social space on campus with the renovation of the Smith Campus Center. Set to be ready in 2018, the new campus center is designed to be open at all hours and feature a network of meeting rooms and common spaces. Much like the proposed Pusey social space, the new campus center would face limitations on alcohol consumption, but it is close to the Yard and easily accessible to freshmen. With the College already creating a social space on campus that freshmen can easily use, radically transforming an existing library and key academic resource seems unnecessary and redundant.
Lastly, placing the proposal to turn Pusey into a social space on the ballot detracts trivializes the serious issue of social space and inclusivity, and—along with the breakfast meetings ballot question—distracts from the two more serious referenda. The questions demanding more student input on sexual assault policy and asking the administration to ban membership in final clubs revolve around real issues. Whatever their outcome, they have the potential to guide the UC’s role as an advocate for student opinions. Both are far more meaningful than transforming Pusey into a social space or seeking to limit the times at which students organize their own meetings.
Ultimately, the UC referendum process must focus attention on major issues, and not waste time on ideas that are infeasible and unnecessary. This year, two of the referendum questions have failed to meet that standard.
UC Referendum Asks To Turn Pusey Library Into Social Space
Pros and Cons: Partying in Pusey
UC Ballot Set With Two Referenda
Pusey Library: A Question of PrioritiesWe want to create a venue for safe, inclusive, large-scale events oriented towards freshmen, with an emphasis on safe and inclusive, because our current social climate is neither.
The Back of the UC Ballot