Transparency and the Undergraduate Council

We support attempts by UC members to push for a more democratic and responsible organization

Last week, in an address to a recent Faculty meeting, Undergraduate Council president Yasmin Z. Sachee ’18 criticized a proposed ban on single-gender final clubs and Greek organizations. She did so without consulting other members of the body she leads about her remarks.

In our view, her actions were inappropriate. The student body should be represented by an individual able to present a disinterested view of the issue based on his or her understanding of undergraduate opinion. As Sachee is a member of the unrecognized Bee Club, her actions represented a conflict of interest between her responsibilities as an elected leader and as a social group member. Indeed, we sympathize with those UC members who criticized the process that led to her remarks.

We support attempts by UC members to push for a more democratic and responsible organization. At its most recent meeting, the body considered the question of whether the president and vice president should have the authority to unilaterally, without consideration with other Council members, ask the student body to take an action, like filling out a survey.

Though the proposal failed, we commend those members who sought to ensure that all students were included in these important discussions about social life on campus. It is vital that the UC president and vice president use the powers of their positions to transparently advocate for the interests of the broad student body and avoid any perceived or real conflict of interest.

Indeed, the UC Constitution explicitly advises against such behavior. In Section 22.2, it demands those with conflicts of interest recuse themselves from the decisions in question. Unfortunately, Sachee, the representative of the student body as well as a member of an organization impacted by the proposed ban, seems to fit this bill. Of course, we would encourage all UC leaders to ensure they remain firmly—in both perception and reality—on the right side of those rules.

We understand that her membership in this group poses unique and thorny challenges for her. Indeed, during the 2016 UC election campaign, the UC Election Commission sought to investigate her campaign for allegedly coercing incoming members of the Bee Club to vote for her. There was insufficient evidence to prove that Sachee’s campaign had run afoul of the rules, but to us, the incident highlighted the importance of increased clarity about the relationship between her membership in the Bee and her leadership of the student body.

We would urge her to ensure she is entirely transparent about her involvement in the Bee, especially when her remarks will naturally be construed as those of the UC president. We are not convinced she has done so adequately, and hope she will specify in the future whether she speaks as a member of the Bee or as president of the UC.

To be clear, this should be true for all leaders of the Council, but especially the president and vice president. They must be clear whether they represent the student body or themselves.

More broadly, we urge the UC to engage better with the student body on potential future actions. We call on the UC president and vice president to consult the representatives on decisions so as to better reflect the entire student body, not merely a small fraction of it. Furthermore, we call on UC leaders to engage with other prominent leaders on campus, especially those involved in student organizations, to understand student opinion. That would be in line with the platform on which Sachee ran which sought to unite the student body.

Ultimately, in the wake of these concerns, we strongly urge the entire student body to vote in future elections. Stories abound of entire Houses failing to vote in UC elections. That is unacceptable. The UC represents the student body, and we, the students, can only hold them accountable if we vote for them.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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