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Voith and Gadgil: Enacting Positive Change Within Our Community

By Clifton G Dawson jr., Kristi L. Jobson, and Kwame Owusu-kesse

It seems that, today, students are so disillusioned with the Undergraduate Council (UC) that they are prepared to give away their votes based solely on which candidate will promise their student organization the most money. But the UC can, and must, be more than just a bank—it must be a forum for ideas, a channel of communication between students and deans, a resource for students, student groups, freshmen dorms, and Houses. John F. Voith III ’07 and Tara Gadgil ’07 can and will make this happen.

Harvard College students can no longer afford to have a student government that is deaf to student demand. We challenge students truly to think about what role the UC can play in our everyday lives. The three of us speak for different experiences at Harvard—community service with PBHA and CityStep, athletics, activism, and campus groups like the Black Men’s Forum—but we have come together in unwavering support of John and Tara. We know that Voith and Gadgil are the only candidates who can give you a voice and the means to enact positive change within our community.

John and Tara have a platform that emphasizes student voice and student agency. While we commend the platform of John S. Haddock ’07 and Annie R. Riley ‘07 for addressing the concerns of students on financial aid as John and Tara have, the main difference in the platforms of each campaign is the future role of the UC in social programming, which must be directed toward fulfilling the demands of students.

Haddock and Riley propose leaving social programming solely in the hands of student groups and House Committees (HoCos), leaving campus-wide events to University Hall. John and Tara, on the other hand, support the creation of a student-run social programming board that would work with the administration, building on the model used to plan the Harvard-Yale pep rally.

The UC should be the glue that brings together the diverse groups and interests of our campus—from HoCos and student groups to athletic teams and volunteer organization. Both HoCos and student groups are great at building community within their own spheres of influence—but we need to think as an entire campus. It is unfair and unfeasible to place the responsibility of effective social programming solely on the shoulders of both HoCos and student groups. If carried through to fruition—which even the College Administration resists—the push to redistribute responsibility for services and event planning to University Hall and HoCos would cripple the UC and student social planning. How can a candidate claim to be an advocate for student voice, yet be willing to give the deans full responsibility for campus-wide activities?

John and Tara offer a coherent set of plans that are not subject to the whims of Council politics or to efforts of College administrators, but to the voices of students. Even before they formally take office, John and Tara will conduct a two-month comprehensive review of social life at Harvard so they can hit the ground running. They will hold town hall meetings to provide a forum where students can engage in constructive dialogue with one another.

John and Tara also demand a better academic experience. They are concerned about the lack of student voice in the Harvard College Curricular Review and have pushed for the creation of a more diverse curriculum, both in terms of faculty and course offerings. They support raising the bar for the hiring and training of teaching fellows.

Much can be said of John and Tara’s qualifications. One quality in particular sets John and Tara apart from the rest—their steadfast commitment to the UC, for which they have worked for a combined eight semesters. They have seen first-hand the successes and failures of the UC over the past three years, and they have spent countless hours searching for ways to improve every facet of student life. They have the vision, the momentum, and the mandate to change things for the better.

Years of experience may not be the ultimate arbiter of successful leadership, but certainly steadfastness and a willingness to stick with the work through thick and thin means a great deal. We know John and Tara, and when faced with failings and shortcomings in the Council, they are not quitters—they learn from mistakes, work to fix problems, and move forward.

We believe that the UC should, first and foremost, aspire to build an undergraduate community. It should do more than just be a grants organization. As Student Affairs Committe chair, Tara has spearheaded advocacy efforts like the push for a women’s center. Furthermore, the success of the pep rally two weeks ago indicates that John, as the new chair of the Campus Life Committee, is committed to a new and effective model for social programming that is student-initiated and in partnership with the Office of the Dean of Harvard College.

We all recognize flaws with the way things are currently run. But the way to “fix the UC” is not to give up and hand over campus wide activities to University Hall, where there will be no student voice. Instead, we as a student body must work to reform the structure of our student government so that students have agency in the execution of our social events. The best way for us to do this is to vote for John Voith and Tara Gadgil in the UC elections next week.

Clifton G. Dawson Jr. ’07 is an economics concentrator in Leverett House. Kristi L. Jobson ’06 is a Social Studies concentrator in Eliot House. Kwame Owusu-Kesse ’06 is an economics concentrator in Adams House.

Voith & Gadgil Are Also Supported By
The First-Year Social Committee
The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee
Native Americans of Harvard College
Harvard Caribbean Club

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