Hwang and Wong: Dismantle the UC

Shinn X. Chen

Citizens of Harvard College—let’s be honest. Do you wonder what, exactly, it is that the Undergraduate Council (UC) does? Do you find yourself struggling to care what it does? Have you been swindled by a random, inefficient, and unaccountable student group grant system?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, then Tim R. Hwang ’08 and Alex S. Wong ’08 are, without a doubt, the choice for you. Their position is simple and their demands pithy: Terminate the UC. Period.

To be clear, Tim and Alex steadfastly seek to dismantle the UC not out of spite for the idea of student representation but because of the fact that the UC doesn’t broadly represent anything at all. Currently, it is the preserve of a particular class of student: those who enjoy politics for the sake of practice, marathon meetings with small stakes, and the power to give or take away grant money. And the weak turnout seen in countless UC representative elections clearly demonstrates that this tiny community of people has seized the mantle of authority over the direction of student life at Harvard without any real mandate. Still more galling, it has made a figurehead of itself, making it seem that the voice of the students is active in the process.

What’s more, the Council doesn’t seem to be particularly good at being a figurehead. True, legislation is like sausage making: both are worthwhile, but you don’t want to see either process. In the case of the UC, however, not only is the product fairly useless, but the factory has been deeply dysfunctional for years. In fact, other than asking for money that will be handed out unpredictably, the most interaction most of us have with the UC is the occasional cynical joke we might make.

I’m not campaigning for Tim Hwang because I’m his friend and want to make sure he leaves college with a killer résumé—nor am I looking for something to put on my own résumé. I haven’t endorsed this ticket because I hope to get an otherwise unlikely amount of money for a particular student group. I’m not trying to engage in some abstract sense of “networking” that will provide me with an advantage on the job market. I am campaigning because I am simply tired of the cynical state of affairs that has prevailed out of sheer inertia, and I suspect that others, if not tired enough to write an op-ed, are at least tired enough to go to the UC’s voting website and give a the Council a clear thumbs-down.

Tim and Alex propose to fulfill their promise to demolish the UC in three ways.

First, they believe that the UC’s appointing students—often fellow UC representatives—to seats on Faculty committees creates bottlenecks in hearing student voice. It is unclear to them why UC middlemen should shape the expression of student concerns. Under their system, this would be entirely eliminated. The UC would simply facilitate direct meetings between student groups and faculty and would have no further influence in the interaction between the two.

Second, all party grant money will be given to the House Committees (HoCos) to distribute. It is unclear how such a small body as the UC would know what parties are worth funding on any given weekend. They feel this leads to inequitable distributions of party grant money. For example, last school year only one in 45 UC super party grants was given to an all-female suite, according to an analysis by The Crimson in April. Tim and Alex firmly believe that the HoCos, who are far closer to the student body, would just be plain better at distributing money.

Third, Tim and Alex would strip the UC of control over student group funding. It is ridiculous to allow such a small committee of members the power to decide which student groups or events are worthy of grant money. They would arrange for each Finance Committee meeting to be transcribed and the transcript published. Then, instead of having the committee vote on a grants package, the student body as a whole vote on which grants they would like to see funded. It might seem like a crazy idea, but Tim and Alex think that the students should be the ones directly deciding what is or is not important on campus.

What comes after that? Tim and Alex certainly don’t claim to know for sure. But it is unlikely to be worse than the charade of representative student government that we have now. Voter turnout was about 43 percent in this September’s UC representative elections. If the 57 percent of you who didn’t think that the UC was worth your time still feels the same way, this is the moment to let those on the UC know. The Hwang/Wong ticket puts the weapon in your hands. By voting for them, you have power to put an end to the madness. You have a chance to show the UC how you really feel. You can put a candidate in office who is committed to dismantling the system—and putting the power back in your hands, not the UC’s.

Now is the chance to end the UC for good. Don’t miss the opportunity.

Samuel G. Hodkin ’07 is a Near Eastern languages and civilizations concentrator in Dudley House.


If you could do one thing as UC president what would it be?
Dismantle the UC and eliminate its status as ineffectual middleman

What is the most important quality you will bring to the office?
A desire to kick ass and bring down the system

What has been the UC’s greatest recent success?
I’m not sure­—what do they do again?

What has been the UC’s greatest recent failure?
When everyone ended up being unsure what the UC did

What is your favorite dining hall food?
We really like the ambiguously chunky pudding. Mmm!