Amid Boston Overdose Crisis, a Pair of Harvard Students Are Bringing Narcan to the Red Line


At First Cambridge City Council Election Forum, Candidates Clash Over Building Emissions


Harvard’s Updated Sustainability Plan Garners Optimistic Responses from Student Climate Activists


‘Sunroof’ Singer Nicky Youre Lights Up Harvard Yard at Crimson Jam


‘The Architect of the Whole Plan’: Harvard Law Graduate Ken Chesebro’s Path to Jan. 6

Subramanian Consumed by Chairdom


Eric K. Wepsic '91-'92. "He said he would put in the extra work."

"We ended up electing the lamp instead," Wepsic recalls.

But last fall, Subramanian's political ambitions met with a little more success. And after besting three other Undergraduate Council veterans in a bid to become the council chair, Subramanian has dedicated himself to putting in the extra work, council members say.

"It's completely his life. It's probably wearing him down," says council Vice Chair Athan G. Tolis '91. "You really can't believe it. Up until the middle of first semester he hadn't bought his books."

"He has a vision for the council," Tolis says. "He's very romantic about the council. He always goes by the rules. He doesn't just want to do the job right, he does more. He wants to make the council more accepted, and expand it."

And although this fall's council can point to few tangible accomplishments, council members say that Subramanian's dedication has paid off. Rather than fulfilling his own political agenda--a frequent criticism of former council Chair Kenneth E. Lee '89--Subramanian has tried to make sure that the council runs smoothly and follows through on its policies.

According to Tolis and Lori L. Outzs '91, chair of the academics committee, Subramanian has made sure that each of the council's members has a key to its office in Canaday Hall. He has cleaned and organized the council's workplace, and set up office hours for each representative.

And if his achievements sound somewhat less than glamorous, council leaders point out that they are very much in line with what Subramanian promised last fall.

"He said that he wanted to be a very non-presidential chair," says Outzs. "He has good follow-through. He's also done a really good job behind the scenes."

Last year's council was heavily criticized for two controversial moves late in the spring: its vote to ask the University to allow the Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) back on campus--which prompted such a storm of outcry among student groups that the council repealed it a week later--and its decision to sponsor a concert by Suzanne Vega, which lost more than $20,000.

But Subramanian says that this year could represent a turning point for the council, as representatives move away from activist issues and focus more on providing student services.

"It's been a rebuilding semester," he says, citing the lack of veterans on this year's council. "The advantage of a rebuilding semester is that we were able to take a different step from where last year was going. When you address political issues you face the specter of irrelevancy."

Unlike Lee, who earned a reputation as an "activist" chair by voting openly on council business, Subramanian has restored the tradition of using his vote only in case of a tie.

"He's obviously different from Ken Lee," says council secretary Evan B. Rauch '92. "Ken was a political leader. He certainly was pushing a particular point of view, whereas Guhan isn't.

"He was very enthusiastic for getting the office set up and doing things the chair is supposed to do. It would be ridiculous to use the chair-person's remarks to push the salad bar," Rauch says.

But Subramanian acknowledges that the council has few services to show after one semester. "In order for student services to work you have to sit down and work out the details," he says. "Things that are more concrete take longer to achieve. I think it's unfair to judge the council on one semester."

Nonetheless, some representatives say Subramanian's position as a non-presidential chair has hurt the council's effectiveness in fulfilling its service-oriented agenda.

"I think a little more push could not have hurt," says Outzs, one of Subramanian's rivals for the council leadership last fall. "It was a new council. If we had had a presidential chair perhaps some projects could have been pushed through. Students could have really gotten on the ball."

Subramanian grew up in Hockessin, Del. and attended a private boarding school, where he was active in student government. But he says he wanted to study mathematics until spring semester of his junior year in high school, which he spent working for U.S. Rep. Tom Carper (D-Del.) The experience, he says, gave him the idea that people could make a difference in the realm of politics--an idea which he says he has tried to apply to the council.

"[I would like] to send it in the direction where people are feeling they're part of the U.C., to make it really feel like the U.C. person is there to serve students," he says.

First-year roommates, however, can trace this desire back to his early days on the both the Undergraduate and Roomie Councils. Subramanian, says Eugene D. Stern '91-'92, is obsessed with his council jobs.

"He's very, very involved in his political doings," says Stern. "He takes it all very seriously. He worries a lot about it. He's very committed, very serious, very earnest."

"He was always thinking up things," Stern continues. "He's often thought up grandiose schemes. Sometimes he gets ideas and he gets very very excited about them. He would always be thinking about `well, the U.C. should do this' and `the U.C. should do that.' When I was living with him I knew more about the U.C. than probably most U.C. members."

And Subramanian maintains that his deliberate, contemplative style is what is needed to make the council effective as a student government.

And although the council has little actual power, Subramanian says he feels that it is gaining respectability with the administration.

"We're thinking through ideas, we're following through proposals," he says. "The more of these kinds of ideas we bring out [the more] our credit rating with the administration improves."

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.