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Dems Endorse Petersen

Town meeting is first-ever open debate featuring UC candidates

By Rachel B Nolan, Contributing Writer

The Harvard College Democrats endorsed Undergraduate Council presidential candidate Ryan A. Petersen ’08 last night after hosting an open debate, throwing their support behind an insider candidate and his rejection of calls to restructure the UC.

"We are just excited to get behind a ticket that will go beyond structural reform of the UC and focus on the students." Dems President Brigit M. Helgen ’08 said.

Four presidential candidates, including Petersen, Ali A. Zaidi ’08, Tom D. Hadfield ’08, and Amadi P. Anene ’08 participated in the short debate—with Tim R. Hwang ’08 and Brian S. Gillis ’07-’08 opting out.

Gillis declined to attend because he is "running for other reasons, more as social commentary," said Dems Political Chair Jillian K. Swencionis ’08.

Participating candidates emphasized how their campaigns’ issues dovetail with the interests of the Dems.

Anene said that he was against military recruiters’ presence on campus—an important issue in last year’s UC election—because of their "non-progressive stance on issues like homosexuality."

Zaidi, whose platform aims to address perceived campus disillusionment, spoke to potential concerns that his platform is too general.

"A lot of people are going to talk about how we are off-base," he said. "But we are the only ones really willing to step up to the plate."

Hadfield, who is a Crimson editorial editor, criticized the UC for "too many position papers, too little action." The British entrepreneur emphasized his interest in diversity, workers’ rights, and environmental sustainability.

His running mate, Adam Goldenberg ’08, at one point was forced to defend his membership in the Fox club.

"I think being a homosexual member of a final club gives me a unique perspective," he said.

In response to the last question, Petersen replied emphatically to a question about the recent Collegeboxes furor, in which the company lost students’ belongings. He demanded that Harvard Student Agencies "sever ties" with Collegeboxes.

"I’m going after the monopoly on microwaves, too, and that’s a promise," he said to applause and laughter from the audience.

The event, which was billed by the Dems as a "town meeting," marked the first-ever open debate in which candidates were invited to present their platforms to the group.

In addition, members at large—as opposed to just the officers—were invited to vote, a change that Dems Vice President Harlan M. Piper ’08 described as a move away from decisions made in "metaphorical smoke-filled rooms."

Petersen said that he was excited to receive the Dems’ support.

"Tonight’s endorsement, aside from its ramifications for the campaign itself, speaks to students’ perspective of the UC," Petersen wrote in an e-mail. "I am thrilled that the Dems agree with us that it’s about time for the UC to start talking more about undergraduates and less about the council itself."

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