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RUS Members Elect An Activist Secretary

By Dafna V. Hochman

Amid campus debate over the role of the Radcliffe Union of Students (RUS), the group's elections for secretary last night led to speculation over its political future.

The winner of the elections, Heather Haxo Phillips '97-'98, actively supports more radical feminist groups on campus, such as Radcliffe Women's Action Coalition (RADWAC)--a group created under the recently reformed RUS constitution.

RADWAC seeks to create a "visible and unapologetically feminist presence on campus," said RADWAC member Mia Bagneris '99.

Last week, RADWAC postered the Yard to protest final clubs' policies which the group deemed to be sexist.

In an interview, a student who asked not to be named said RUS's neutral political position is threatened by RADWAC's radical acts.

RUS's activities include addressing women's issues on campus and providing resources for female students--such as the annual Take Back the Night vigil and the distribution of more information to first-years on campus safety.

Phillips, a resident of the Dudley Co-op and a concentrator in women's studies and government, presented a more radical political platform in her election position than her opponents.

"Having just re-written the [RUS] constitution we are at the brink of something very special," Phillips wrote in her pre-election platform. "Up with RADWAC, up with activism."

Phillips said she has "extensive experience" with leading feminist organizations. She is also a member of the National Organization for Women, a pro-active feminist group.

"My plans are to harness women's energy on this campus to have RUS be a foundation organization which supports and encourages the energy on campus, which means more task forces like RADWAC, GirlSpot, getting more tenure for minority women, better safety on campus...also working with other organizations like the U.C., minority student organizations," Phillips said in an interview.

Last night's elections add to the ongoing debate about the future aims and methods of RUS.

The RUS member who spoke on condition of anonymity said that people have conflicting views about where the group should be headed.

"Traditionally RUS has been more moderate, and as a student government organization has not taken a political stance," she said.

Co-Presidents Kavita Kacholia '98 and Jennifer P. Stevens '98 declined to comment on the impact of last night's secretarial elections on the relationship between RADWAC's strident feminism and RUS's mainstream approach to female identity issues at Harvard.

However, Kacholia stressed the importance of cooperating with other women's support groups on campus, such as RADWAC.

Stevens and Kacholia issued a joint statement expressing their "excitement about working with RADWAC."

"One of our main initiatives is to foster joint ventures and coalitions between different women's focus groups on campus," Stevens said.

Although the five-member board of RUS is usually elected every December, the outgoing secretary, Michelle L. Murphy '99, resigned recently because of time constraints.

Cristin M. Hodgens '00 and Stacy M. Abder '99 ran for the position as well.

Phillips, a transfer student from University of California at San Diego, was elected by secret ballot

"Traditionally RUS has been more moderate, and as a student government organization has not taken a political stance," she said.

Co-Presidents Kavita Kacholia '98 and Jennifer P. Stevens '98 declined to comment on the impact of last night's secretarial elections on the relationship between RADWAC's strident feminism and RUS's mainstream approach to female identity issues at Harvard.

However, Kacholia stressed the importance of cooperating with other women's support groups on campus, such as RADWAC.

Stevens and Kacholia issued a joint statement expressing their "excitement about working with RADWAC."

"One of our main initiatives is to foster joint ventures and coalitions between different women's focus groups on campus," Stevens said.

Although the five-member board of RUS is usually elected every December, the outgoing secretary, Michelle L. Murphy '99, resigned recently because of time constraints.

Cristin M. Hodgens '00 and Stacy M. Abder '99 ran for the position as well.

Phillips, a transfer student from University of California at San Diego, was elected by secret ballot

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