Voting on the 2017 Undergraduate Council Referenda

The Editorial Board weighs in on the four Undergraduate Council Referenda

After intense focus on a variety of important local and state elections, the Harvard student body should prepare to shift its focus to the ballot that has an impact even closer to home: the Undergraduate Council ballot. In addition to electing the UC’s next President and Vice President, students at the College will be tasked with taking a stance on the four referenda appearing on the UC ballot.

As we’ve recently opined, the referendum system is a good method of surveying student opinion and giving the UC insight into what issues they should prioritize. For those reasons, students must think critically in contemplating the merits of the four referenda that received the necessary 650 signatures to be voted on.

A number of the referenda touch on issues that have been discussed and debated at the College for some time. For example, the referenda that asks whether administrators should support the establishment of a “physical space” for issues of diversity, belonging, and inclusion seems to refer to the decades long debate on whether Harvard should establish a multicultural center. As we opined in May, such a center is needed, so we hope that students will support this referendum as a step towards its establishment.

In response the announcement that “Harvard time” is ending, there have been murmurs of student discontent. A referendum question seeks to save Harvard time, asking if “the Faculty of Arts and Sciences should preserve the seven-minute grace period between classes.” While we lament the loss of what is ultimately a Harvard tradition, it’s important to realize that the loss of Harvard time is unavoidable with the expansion into Allston. It does not make sense to vote in favor of this referenda which merely rejects the reality of the schedule change.

The referendum that received the most support in getting on the ballot—at 947 signatures—asks “whether the College should extend Thanksgiving break to include the Monday and Tuesday before the holiday.” Though we acknowledge that the UC does not have direct control over academic scheduling, and that implementing a longer Thanksgiving break would come with its own set of logistical and administrative difficulties, we urge students to vote in favor of this referenda.

Many professors already assume that classes will be scarcely attended on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving break, going as far as to operate on two-week cycles for assignments in November. Squeezing those two extra days elsewhere in the semester, likely at the beginning or the end of the semester, would be viable and would offer students a fuller break.

The last referendum asks whether the College should invest in creating more class-wide programming for sophomores and juniors. There is substantial class-wide programming freshman year, with entities such as the First Year Social Committee, and senior year, with the Senior Class Committee and Senior Week. Yet sophomores and juniors do not have programming that makes them feel a sense of camaraderie with their class. To us, this referenda makes sense, but support for class-wide programming is an actionable area where the UC can effect change regardless of the administration’s reaction to the results of the referenda.

More broadly, it’s critically important that students vote on the referenda, and in the election writ large. A higher turnout than we’ve seen in recent elections will provide a more accurate representation of student opinion. Therefore, it is our responsibility as students to be aware of the issues on the ballot this year and to take the time to cast our votes.

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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