The Early Line

.U.C. members mull over the fall race for president.

Could true democracy be coming to Harvard? The next student referendum might just include a proposition on direct election of Undergraduate Council officers. But the big question is, who, if anyone, should get your vote?

The most unpredictable race, whether or not individual students vote, will surely be for president of the council. Five perspective candidates have come to the forefront, and all are or have been on the council's executive board: Hassen A. Sayeed '96, chair of the Student Affairs Committee; Jamila A. Braswell '95, treasurer; former treasurer Rene Reyes '95; secretary Brandon C. Gregoire '95; and vice-president Joshua D. Liston '95.

Once upon a time, you could trace each candidate's pedigree through alliances ranging from House affiliation to final club membership. Only Liston still qualifies, since he shares Spee Club membership with former council chair Michael B. Beys '94. Liston's candidacy has been marred, however, by recent allegations of malfeasance in enforcing Council attendance and election rules. But Braswell contended that "Josh would have a chance, even with everything that's been happening." Gregoire and Reyes agreed that Liston would take the plunge.

None of the other candidates have been so much in the pubic eye this year. Nevertheless, all but Reyes were named by their fellow Council members as possible candidates. Reyes has been a constant also-ran for top spots over the past two years, and he said he wouldn't rule out a run for president. Sayeed, the only sophomore in the bunch, has not yet decided to run. "I've considered it, sure," he said. "Who doesn't, at some point?"

All of the candidates interviewed were against the plan proposed by Anjalee C. Davis '96 for direct election of U.C. officers. The two major arguments against a campus-wide vote were that it would be a popularity contest and that it would cost too much money to campaign. Braswell added, "It would be a big effort to find out what the candidates stand for, and I don't see students taking that effort." On a different note, Sayeed stood up for the current scheme: "Many countries use the parliamentary system that we use."

Among the five, Reyes stands out as the only one who one who didn't vote for the $10 term bill fee increase. "I was not convinced that we needed the extra money," he said. Reyes also expects that the council's budgetary roll-over will be between $15,000 and $20,000, several thousand more than the $9,000 figure given by current president Carey W. Gabay '94.

A campus-wide election would be open to all student candidates. With this possibility on the horizon, one has to wonder if the council members themselves are any better qualified than other students. Hopefully, being on the council provides some valuable experience. On the other hand, some first-timers unhampered by petty politicking get the most done.

Even if there were a huge general election, would anyone vote? As Braswell puts it, "the student's attitude towards the U.C. is pretty negative." Perhaps the only people who really care about the president of the council are the people vying for the job. In that case, shouldn't they be the ones voting? Or perhaps the council should simply cease to involve itself in other students' affairs and fill a long-empty niche as the Harvard-Radcliffe Model Parliament. With Model Senate, Congress, United Nations, and Security Council, what else is missing?

Daniel Altman's column appears on alternate Mondays.