Undergraduate Council representatives are making a more concerted attempt to hold office hours this semester in an effort to better comply with the body's own requirements.
Article II of the UC’s bylaws requires its members to hold weekly office hours, as well as host study breaks once a semester for their Yard or House. Rules Committee Chair Evan M. Bonsall ’19 said many members of the UC were not aware of this rule and neglected to hold office hours before this semester.
“For some reason, that had stopped being part of the UC’s institutional memory that this was something that we were supposed to be doing according to our own rules, which is definitely not acceptable,” he said.
UC President Yasmin Z. Sachee ’18 said the UC recognized this provision in the fall and has been more deliberate in mandating representatives to speak with their constituents.
“We realized that in the fall, I think, that office hours were a mandatory thing in the constitution,” she said. “I’d say this semester there’s been a definite effort.”
But Bonsall said that despite progress made this semester—he said that current UC leadership has been “proactive” about mandating office hours—the Council still struggles with getting both representatives and other students to attend them.
“The biggest problem that we’re dealing with right now is just trying to make sure everybody’s actually signing up for office hours,” he said.
Student Relations Committee Chair and Dunster House representative Victor C. Agbafe ’19 said he wasn’t aware of any enforcement mechanism prior to this recent effort.
“I had heard that it was done in the past, but beyond I guess using the Secretary to check, there wasn’t really any second mechanism to make sure people were doing it,” he said.
UC members now sign up for office hours on a shared document organized by Agbafe and UC Secretary Ruiqi He ’19, according to Agbafe. However, there is currently no punishment for skirting the bylaws, as members are exploring different ways to hold office hours, He said. For example, small groups of representatives choose to hold office hours by House or neighborhood, and not individually.
“I think because we’re kind of in a transition period where the UC has never really done office hours or enforced them as much before, we’re still kind of just like letting people try it out, feel it out,” He said.
Bonsall added: “We’re trying to comply with the requirements of the bylaws as best we can.”
Cabot House representative Christopher B. Cruz ’18, along with Currier House representatives Anna M. Raheem ’19, and Ziko McLean ’18, held office hours together in the Quad in past weeks. Cruz said he sees office hours as paramount to representing his constituents.
“Students come to us wanting to talk about University-wide issues, but also the local issues that are affecting them in their houses,” Cruz said.
Such issues include a charge to integrate Charlie Cards and Harvard IDs. Students also said they were concerned with Currier’s recent loss of pool cues, according to Raheem.
“We had to coordinate with the House administrators to reintroduce [the pool cues],” Raheem said.
Looking ahead, Sachee said members should go beyond the listening sessions and instead try to truly engage their constituents.
“It’s not just sitting in the dining hall—it’s about going out there, doing outreach to your community, and showing your community what the UC is doing,” she said.
—Staff writer Andrew J. Zucker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewJZucker.
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