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Council Votes for Women’s Center

By Elena Sorokin, Crimson Staff Writer

Following its decision last spring to push for a separate space for women’s groups, the Undergraduate Council voted to include this goal in a bill outlining its vision for an Allston student center at last night’s meeting.

Council members did not disagree over any of the other proposed components of the student center—including office and entertainment space for student groups, an auditorium, a food court, a fitness center and computer clusters.

But Cabot House representative Jason L. Lurie ’05 said he would not vote for the bill until it included plans for a women’s center—which would be space set aside for meetings and gatherings of women’s groups, and would provide information about issues of particular concern to women, like sexual assault and eating disorders.

Council member Laura C. Settlemyer ’05 similarly objected to the original legislation, citing a bill she drafted and the council passed last spring asking the College to create the Harvard-Radcliffe Women’s Center as part of a larger conversion of Hilles Library into a student space.

Debate over incorporating a women’s center into the bill and whether the bill’s proposals should take Allston’s geography into consideration lasted for about an hour. On a motion of Vice President Michael R. Blickstead ’05, members eventually voted 26-4-4 to send the bill back to the Student Affairs Committee for revision.

Several council members objected to the proposal, because they said it was unnecessary to combine visions for a student center with a women’s center in one bill.

“When we voted for women’s legislation at Hilles, I voted for that,” council member Justin R. Chapa ’05 said. “For me, this issue does need to be considered separately.”

The council also spent an hour and a half last night debating, and finally approving, a $160 grant to the 16-member evangelical a cappella group, Under Construction.

The council had withheld the grant from last week’s grant package because Lurie said he thought the group—which has weekly Bible sessions and in its constitution requires individuals to “be comfortable with the purposes and principles of faith of Under Construction”—did not conform to the council’s constitutional policy on religious discrimination.

“I don’t know if it’s possible for someone of another faith to be comfortable with our purpose, but if it is possible, we would accept them,” said Nicholas T. Siler ’05, who represented the group at the meeting.

According to Article 1, Section 4 of the council’s constitution, “the council shall not discriminate, and shall discourage discrimination” on a variety of grounds, including religion.

Although council parliamentarian E.E. Keenan ’07 repeatedly said that giving the grant was “backdoor discrimination” and violated the council’s constitution, members eventually voted to approve the grant 25-17, with one abstention.

“One of the things we have to take into consideration is how we can help the most students,” said Financial Commitee Chair Teo P. Nicolais ’06, who led the recent revamping of the grants cycle to make it a weekly process.

The rest of the grants in this week’s package—a total of $9,230.76 in cash awards—passed with little contention.

In other council business, Currier House representative J. Sawalla Guseh II ’06 introduced a bill to amend the election notification process so that the chair of the Election Committee must send a campus-wide e-mail several hours prior to the annual council election to notify the school of the offices open for election. At least one hour prior to the start of voting, the council vice president must pen a message to the school alerting them to the commencement of voting.

“The last election had a 61 percent turnout, and that’s good, but we should push it higher,” Guseh said.

—Staff writer Elena P. Sorokin can be reached at sorokin@fas.harvard.edu.

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