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The Undergraduate Council elections are on the horizon and an astounding number of students have decided to place their name on the ballot this year. Whereas last year student organizations bemoaned the lack of interest of a seemingly apathetic Class of 2006, our new first-years have made a break from this descent into idleness. As the deadline for declaring Council candidacy passed on Wednesday, 96 first-years came forth as council hopefuls. A colossal 180 candidates, the highest number in the council’s 21-year history—more than doubled last year’s paltry 91. And as entryway lobbies and House bulletin boards are covered in letter-sized campaign posters, a few theories have surfaced to explain the tremendous turnout.
While it would be easy to claim that coverage and speculation of presidential frontrunners for 2004 has sparked interest in representative politics, that California’s recall election is proving to be an inspiration for all or that Harvard University Dining Services is dousing Annenberg food with something extra special, the reason probably lies in the council itself. First-years may not know the name “Rohit Chopra,” but his zealous campaign to spark interest in effective student advocacy may have revived an attraction to leadership that extends beyond the Class of 2007.
For the first time in council history, every race will be competitive. Students residing in upper-class Houses that have had a dearth of candidates in the past will not be guaranteed a seat on the council due to low participation. While in last year’s election, five House races were uncompetitive—students “won” their seats just by signing up.
And with the number of incumbents in the Houses, 23, virtually the same as prior years, it is clear that the new flood of upper-class candidates are not polically-hungry students trying to snag the spot of a departed senior or a former disillusioned representative. All these candidates will have to campaign for their spots on the council.
The most apparent benefit of this influx of candidates is the greater competition will likely yield motivated, well-intentioned representatives. And competitive campaigns will create excitement for the council, which will be armed with a new guard of driven students—able to focus and improve student services even more effectively.
Hopefully, this extraordinary turnout of candidates will prompt a similar voter turnout, starting at noon today when uc-vote goes active. Harvard students need to embrace their civic duty by voting for quality candidates to serve on the council. With voter turnout down last year, the enthusiasm shown by candidates should invigorate their peers to get out—or, more accurately, get online—and vote.
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