This past week, Harvard students had the opportunity to vote for the president and vice president of the Undergraduate Council for the upcoming year. Undergraduates had the opportunity to choose their favorite from three tickets—C.C. Gong ’15 and Sietse K. Goffard ’15, Chika-Dike Nwokike ’15 and Una Kim ’15, and Sam B. Clark ’15 and Gus Mayopoulos ’15. The first two options have been billed as “serious tickets,” with the third seen largely as a “joke.” I am not one to normally pay much attention to UC races, and I have no idea who my representatives are as a member of Eliot House. Yet, for once, I felt oddly compelled to pick a horse in this race—a matter particularly surprising to me, as I had always operated under the assumption that only friends of candidates ever had any reason to engage in UC elections.
This year I voted for (and even liked the Facebook page of!) Sam Clark and Gus Mayopoulos, and I found myself legitimately rooting for them as the results—and their victory—were announced last night. For the first time in my three years here, I have actually found one of the options for UC leadership to be genuinely “relatable”—despite the myriad individuals and tickets who make that claim each year. Perhaps driven by the fact that Clark and Mayopoulos are the only “UC outsiders” running—most Harvard students are not on the UC—these two candidates seem to somehow understand the relationship between the student body and the Undergraduate Council much better than the so-called “establishment tickets.” This is no better represented than in the following Clark/Mayopoulos response to a question in the annual IOP-sponsored UC debate: “It’s not just us who are confused about the UC, where the UC meets.” This may have been jocular in its nature but it rings true—to my knowledge, there is no UC building on campus. For all I know, they might very well hold their meetings in a dorm room; or maybe they are the only student organization to utilize the Student Organization Center at Hilles.
Disconnect between Harvard students and the UC is further manifested in the various platforms and candidacy statements of those vying for the school’s top offices. Gong and Goffard’s main goal is to increase UC funding, as they appear to be under the impression that Harvard students want more UC—and not less—in their lives. I cannot be alone in believing the $75 UC tax (billed as a student fee) attached to our tuition bills is hefty enough as it is. The Nwokike/Kim ticket placed emphasis on accountability and student voice, and they propose more student involvement in Undergraduate Council affairs. It seems unlikely that many non-UC members are lobbying for the ability to participate in this school’s “student government,” especially considering the number of races for UC representative earlier this semester that lacked interested candidates of any sort.
Sam and Gus, on the other hand, constructed their platform around tomato basil ravioli soup. While this was initially treated as pure humor, it quickly became clear that this was an issue that students actually care about much more than the bureaucratic pablum pitched by the other candidates as necessary solutions to the pressing issues facing this school. And—lo and behold—their idea actually came into being, as HUDS announced yesterday that the beloved soup will be offered every Thursday following Thanksgiving break.
I do not personally know any candidates in the race, and I cannot possibly comment on any of their motives for running for UC president or vice president. But it is easy to reflect on the stereotype that students who run for the UC want first and foremost to be able to write “president of the Harvard student body” on their résumé (I know I would!). I think it is clear that Clark and Mayopoulos made no such consideration when they decided to enter this race. As the Crimson noted, their ticket is considered as a “joke,” and it is unlikely that they jumped into the contest with the expectation of victory. Yet, in a recent interview, Clark maintained that, “we’re in it to win it.” And win it they did. Throuhgout the election, they expanded the conversation to include what non-UC members think about the school’s ostensible student government. Although Sam and Gus say they plan to step down from the positions they have earned, I am sincerely glad they won. Hopefully this can be a wake-up call to those who sit on the Undergraduate Council and fancy themselves as student representatives. Because students aren’t looking for more UC. All we really want is more soup.
John F. M. Kocsis ’15, a Crimson editorial writer, is a government concentrator in Eliot House. His column appears on alternate Fridays. Follow him on Twitter @jfmkocsis.