Students Propose Four Referenda for UC Ballot

Undergraduates are looking to bring back ‘Harvard Time,’ extend Thanksgiving break, fund class-wide programming for upperclassmen, and designate physical space towards a multicultural center as the deadline approaches to add referenda to the Undergraduate Council’s presidential election ballot.

UC referenda are meant to gauge student opinion on various campus issues. In the past, they have ranged from serious—such as one asking for student input on Harvard’s Title IX policies—to lighthearted, such as a proposal to make the “Harvard Turkey” the University’s official mascot.

Students must have 650 signatures on an initial interest form by midnight on Nov. 5 in order for their questions to appear on the ballot.

Although the College extended Thanksgiving break to include the Wednesday before the holiday in 2011, Daniel J. Kenny ’18 is seeking to extend the break to include the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving in his referendum question. Kenny said he hopes that, if successful, the referendum will demonstrate student support for extending the break.

According to Kenny, many at the College seem enthusiastic about the proposal.

“It’s something I’ve discussed with a few of my friends, and anyone I brought it up to seemed to be very supportive of it,” he said. “I figure the best way to make this schedule change is to just sort of show that students want this.”

The petition has already garnered at least 860 signatures, according to Kenny, passing the threshold to appear on the ballot next month.

Other students, like Adams House representative Nicholas P. Whittaker ’19 and Leverett House representative Salma Abdelrahman ’20, are seeking to include a question about a physical space for students that promotes “Diversity, Belonging, and Inclusion.” Whittaker said he and Abdelrahman’s proposed referendum has “over half” of the necessary signatures.

Whittaker said he hopes this referendum sparks “tangible” change in addressing concerns of diversity at Harvard.

“We’ve been talking a lot about diversity and inclusion on campus. The administration has done a lot of things. They've made a lot of committees and task reports and stuff. I think a lot of things that kind of feel intangible to students,” he said.

Another question vying for a spot on the ballot asks students whether the Faculty of Arts and Sciences should preserve “Harvard Time,” the seven minute grace period between classes that FAS struck down earlier this year in favor of a new course schedule that will set in fall 2018. Eli W. Russell ’20 sponsored the referendum.

Quincy House representative Wyatt M. Robertson ’18 proposed a fourth question about funding “inclusive class-wide programming” for sophomores and juniors. Robertson said he was inspired to propose the question by the lack of class-wide programming outside of freshmen and senior year.

“At Harvard, your freshman year is really fun, you get to spend it with your class, but then I feel like the College somewhat forgets that you’re part of a larger class, instead of Houses, for the rest of your time at Harvard until senior year,” he said.

In the past, others have hosted programming of this kind. In April, for example, Caie C. Kelley ’18—an inactive Crimson editor—and Berkeley Brown ’18 held a junior year reflection event for members of the Class of 2018. The year prior, Brown and Madeleine H. Stern ’18 threw a concentration declaration event for sophomores in Annenberg Hall.

—Staff writer Andrew J. Zucker can be reached at andrew.zucker@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewJZucker.

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