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Chopra Criticizes Council in Speech

By Ebonie D. Hazle, Crimson Staff Writer

With his four potential successors doing most of the talking over the last week, soon-to-be-former Undergraduate Council President Rohit Chopra ’04 took his turn at the podium yesterday, lecturing for 20 minutes on the council’s various deficiencies.

Taking a more critical approach than most of the presidential candidates, Chopra said the council is in need of a “dramatic restructuring” citing a lack of representativeness and accountability as well as internal conflicts among members as problems that “plague” the organization.

Chopra said that the council cannot rely on its House election system to guarantee that all students will be represented by council members.

“This leaves a very large number of students who do not identify with their House as their main social network,” he said.

Chopra said that the council’s committee system is also inherently problematic because committee members are not accountable to undergraduates.

“Our committee leadership plays the largest role in what initiatives the UC undertakes, but they are each elected by subsets of the UC and are totally unaccountable to the student body at large,” he said.

The council is not connected enough with other student governments across the University, Chopra said. “The number of non-undergraduates who take our shuttles, come to our movie nights and cheer us on in our advocacy initiatives is startling, yet we are structurally separated from all of them.”

And according to Chopra, the council is generally overworked and does not receive enough help from the administration.

“We are probably the only school that has just 16 people organizing campus-wide events. The only school that produces concerts without administration support,” Chopra said.

Aaron S. Byrd ’05, one of four presidential candidates, said afterwards that he agreed that the council has many problems, but that structural changes are difficult and time consuming. Byrd estimated it could take a full two semesters just to push through constitutional changes.

“I agree with what he’s saying in spirit but I don’t know what he actually thinks should be done about it,” presidential candidate Matt W. Mahan ’05 said after the meeting. “Rohit is correct in the sense that we have some major issues of accountability and productivity.”

In other business last night, the council unanimously decided to advocate for the creation of an online system for students to add or drop classes and discussed a proposal for a week to celebrate diversity at Harvard.

An online add/drop system, council members said, would simplify the current process, which requires students to fill out a form and have it signed by their assistant dean of freshman or Allston Burr senior tutor.

—Staff writer Ebonie D. Hazle can be reached at

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