Slim Odds for Frosh UC Seats

With the voting for Undergraduate Council seats set to close today, many districts will witness their fair share of crossed fingers and frayed nerves.

But nowhere will disappointment be as prevalent as in the freshman yards.

With 78 candidates for eight UC seats, a mere 10.3 percent of first-year hopefuls will see their campaigns end in triumph, as compared to over 50 percent for their upper-class counterparts.

To students only months removed from the college admissions rat-race, those odds might seem uncannily familiar.

“Sounds like they’re trying to get into Harvard again,” said Patrick M. Mulvaney ’10.

In fact, the odds of getting into the Undergraduate Council are just 1 percent higher than the odds of getting into Harvard College itself.

The electoral landscape in the Yard contrasts with the terrain facing upperclassman candidates.

The four freshman districts each fielded at least 19 candidates this year, with Leverett House, the next most contested precinct, putting forth a meager six.

It’s not just the freshman candidates who are getting the electoral urge. First-years are also going to the polls—that is, the UC website—in greater numbers than their more grizzled elders.

In 2005, turnout topped 50 percent in every freshman district. No upperclass House saw turnout exceed 43 percent—and at the lowest extreme, less than 28 percent of Dunsterites bothered to vote, according to statistics from the UC Election Commission.

Jay Anderson ’09, a member of the six-person commission, ascribes such impressive voter turnouts to the freshmen candidates’ concerted efforts to become acquainted with their constituency.

“The freshman candidates really make a big effort to get to know their neighbors in the dorm,” he said. “There’s a lot more active door-to-door campaigning [among the freshman] than in the Houses.”

Chen B. Fang ’10, a West Yard candidate who was president of his high school class for four consecutive years, said that many Yard-dwelling council hopefuls “don’t know what the UC’s all about.”

“Half [the freshman candidates] saw e-mails from the UC and just signed up and didn’t know what they were getting into,” Fang speculated.

The chairman of the UC Election Commission, Joshua G. Allen ‘09, was even less generous in his estimations.

“I think only 1/3 or so of Freshmen candidates actually campaign with real determination,” wrote Allen in an e-mail. “It may be sad, but I’m sure a few people run just to measure their popularity, for whatever reason.”

Even the candidates with “real determination” might not know quite what lies ahead. “No one fully understands the UC until serving on it,” wrote Allen.

But naive or not, the Yard UC hopefuls are a heartening sign to the council’s top brass.

“I see the big class of freshmen candidates as the drivers behind this organization for the years to come,” UC President John S. Haddock ’07 wrote in an e-mail.