Unconventional Overseers Candidates Qualify for Ballot

After Ron K. Unz ’83 flew cross country to turn in almost 300 signatures to Harvard’s doorstep, he and four other alumni—including five-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader—can now call themselves candidates for the Board of Overseers, the University’s second highest governing body.

The unorthodox group launched a bid for the Overseers in January on a two-pronged platform: eliminate tuition and reconsider admissions practices at Harvard College, two proposals that University President Drew G. Faust has staunchly opposed. But before they could qualify as candidates and officially attempt to join the ranks of some of Harvard’s most esteemed supporters, the group needed 201 signatures from Harvard degree-holders.

On Wednesday, the quixotic quintet received confirmation that their petition effort was successful. In an email to Unz, Jeff Caldwell, the director of administration and senior associate secretary at the Office of Governing Boards, wrote that Unz had made the ballot. The four other members of the ballot had received similar notifications, according to Unz.

“I’m relieved,” said Unz. “We gathered all the signatures in basically a couple of weeks despite that huge storm that slowed things down so enormously. There were times during the period of signature gathering when I was very nervous whether we’d make it.”

Along with Unz and Nader, physicist Stephen D. Hsu, conservative writer Stuart S. Taylor, Jr., and attorney Lee C. Cheng ’93 will appear on the ballot distributed to alumni in advance of the May election. While most Overseer candidates are nominated by the Harvard Alumni Association—it nominated eight this year—anyone with a Harvard degree can run for the Overseers.

Patrick S. McKiernan, a spokesperson for Harvard’s office of Alumni Affairs and Development, wrote in an email that the official Overseers ballot would be released “on or after February 15.”

Unz and his colleagues argue that the enormous size of Harvard’s endowment, which reached $37.6 billion last fiscal year, would provide more than enough money to cover the cost of tuition for every undergraduate student. They also suspect that the College’s admissions practices could be discriminatory against Asian American applicants, and they are calling for more detailed public data about Harvard’s admissions practices.

“This is for Harvard’s own good as an institution, and that’s what we’re driving for,”Cheng said. “The decisions shouldn’t be made by a handful of bureaucrats and educrats who are divorced from the real world.”

Harvard officials have rebuked both tenets of the campaign’s platform. In an interview earlier this month, Faust contended that making tuition free would unnecessarily bankroll the cost for wealthy families and defended the College’s consideration of race as a factor in its undergraduate admissions processes.

While Unz said that he would be taking some time to relax after weeks of hectic signature-gathering, he launched a campaign website Wednesday and said he hopes to participate in debates and forums across the country before the election.

—Staff writer Andrew M. Duehren can be reached at andy.duehren@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @aduehren.

—Staff writer Daphne C. Thompson can be reached at daphne.thompson@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @daphnectho.

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