Student Advisory Committee Member Declines To Say If Bacow Met Recommendations

Undergraduate Council
Nina Srivastava '18 speaks to the Undergraduate Council Monday night about the role of the University-wide student advisory committee in the presidential search.
Nina Srivastava ’18, a member of the student advisory committee for Harvard’s presidential search, declined to say whether newly selected University President Lawrence S. Bacow met the recommendations of the advisory body at an Undergraduate Council meeting Monday.

Nonetheless, Srivastava said she believed student input was valued by the group selecting the University’s 29th president.

“They were very genuinely interested in what we had to say and very open and willing to meet with us,” Srivastava said. “We, I think overall, throughout the process, felt very heard.”

Srivastava was one of three undergraduates on the student advisory committee, serving alongside students from most of Harvard’s graduate and professional schools. Srivastava declined to share the committee’s recommendations with the UC, saying she wanted to give Bacow an opportunity to see the advisory body’s recommendations first.

“We want him to hear our feedback first, and then we’ll go from there,” Srivastava said.

Srivastava added that her committee met with presidential search committee members on “multiple occasions” and she said she thought they were receptive to the advisory committee’s suggestions.

According to Srivastava, the advisory committee gathered student input through a variety of mediums, including multiple focus groups, a survey sent to all undergraduate and graduate students, and office hours. Srivastava said the survey reached about 4,000 students, representing a response rate of roughly 15 percent of students at the University.

UC Vice President Nicholas D. Boucher ’19 said at the meeting that he and UC President Catherine L. Zhang ’19 met with Bacow last week, but declined to elaborate on the substance of their conversation.

“We’re very excited to be working with him,” Boucher said.

As the Council’s Finance Committee continues to grapple with a budget shortfall, some UC representatives urged the committee to look closely at its funding policies. For two consecutive weeks, the committee has been forced to make unusually large across-the-board cuts to grant funding after grant requests far exceeded the amount the committee had previously allocated.

The committee has already implemented two minor changes to help ameliorate its recent budget woes, including reducing the amount of funding large groups receive for transportation. The committee is also considering instituting a progressive cut to its grants, a policy that would fall disproportionately on student groups that request large sums of money from the UC.

Finance Committee member Swathi R. Srinivasan ’21 told Council members that the committee is looking “very, very, heavily” at its policy guide to try to save money wherever possible.

Winthrop House representative Evan M. Bonsall ’19 warned the Council of the consequences of failing to adequately fulfill grant requests, suggesting that the UC’s reputation may be in danger.

“I think we need to do some very hard thinking, like as an entire Council, and not just FiCom,” Bonsall said. “Ultimately, the UC is virtually meaningless, I would argue, if we are not financially sound.”

The UC also passed legislation at the meeting to fund a town hall on education-related issues, which will be conducted in collaboration with student groups, including the Harvard College First Generation Student Union.

Education Committee chair Sruthi Palaniappan ’20 said she hopes the town hall will help the committee better serve the needs of undergraduate students.

—Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonahberger98.