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By Amira Abulafi and Tara W. Merrigan, Contributing Writers

Undergraduate Council presidential candidate John F. Bowman ’11 and his running mate, Eric N. Hysen ’11, stand outside the Science Center in front of a neon green poster. With last year’s pop hits blaring from a boom box, Hysen engages passersby as Bowman breaks into a little dance.

The duo’s colossal poster—spanning four-by-eight feet—is hard to miss. Its shade of high-lighter green may be unusual for a political campaign, but, for these candidates, the poster’s color supposedly symbolizes their vision of change and fresh approach.

In addition, the candidates themselves may not be the stereotypical pair to make a bid for the helm of the UC. Supporters say that Bowman, who dons a green parka and jeans while campaigning, and Hysen, who sports a Mather sweatshirt over a polo, seem more relatable than the typical candidates.

The combination of their unique backgrounds and quirky personalities lend Bowman and Hysen an original angle on Harvard’s most pressing issues, particularly in the context of a financial downturn.

Although Bowman isn’t the “traditional politico”—according to Amanda Lu ’11, who handles student group outreach for the campaign—Bowman and Hysen have garnered the support of both the Harvard College Democrats and the Harvard Republican Club. As of last night, the South Asian Men’s Collective, the Environmental Action Committee, and the Alaska Klub—which has endorsed the winning ticket for the past six years—had also endorsed the Bowman-Hysen ticket.


Bowman, a sociology concentrator in Pforzheimer House, and Hysen, a computer science concentrator living in Mather, say their individual experiences have informed both the way they’re running their campaign and the platform they’ve outlined to the student body.

Though Bowman has been a UC member only starting this academic year, he cites his experiences in activism as an asset to the ticket.

Bowman was first exposed to labor activism two years ago during the Hollywood writers’ strike. After subsequently joining the Student Labor Action Movement on campus, he helped organize demonstrations against Harvard’s layoffs. Bowman spent the last two summers in Los Angeles and Mexico City, where he assisted housekeepers and steelworkers, respectively, as they sought to unionize.

As the chair of the UC’s Budget Cuts Task Force, Bowman says that he has extensively studied the university’s endowment.

“Johnny taught me a lot of what I know about budget cuts,” said current UC President Andrea R. Flores ’10, who will not endorse any ticket.

After seeing the direct effects of budget cuts on student life, Bowman says he switched his focus in the UC, and is now a member of both the UC’s Student Life and Finance Committees.

“The notion that ‘if you’re not actively pushing for something on a daily a basis, then it doesn’t happen’ is something that wakes me up in the morning and keeps me going,” said Bowman, reflecting on his activism.

Hysen, on the other hand, is a veteran member of the UC. Having served since his freshman year, he says he rewrote the UC’s constitution last year and currently chairs the Rules Committee.

“Bowman brings outside leadership to the UC, and Eric Hysen has this inside leadership,” said Jeffrey F. Solnet ’12, the campaign’s field director.


The candidates say the most pressing issues facing the undergraduate community are the repercussions of budget cuts, so they’ve highlighted several cost-neutral solutions in their platform.

This is where the duo says their slogan—“Real Leadership, New Solutions”—ceases being a gimmick and takes on practicality. Bowman and Hysen’s “New Solutions” comprise a range of ideas that will improve the lives of students without breaking the bank, they say.

“One of the biggest distinctions about this ticket is that they have a lot of cost-neutral ideas,” Flores said.

Drawing on Eric’s computer science savvy, Bowman and Hysen have proposed online initiatives, including adding an events calendar to the Web and a study guide database.

“[These] can be accomplished this year, but cost nothing, which is right now exactly what we need,” Bowman said.

Bringing back hot breakfast may also be a no-cost project. After conferring with Harvard University Dining Services, Bowman and Hysen say they found that hot breakfast could be offered in one House per neighborhood at no cost, though students would potentially have to sacrifice lunch at that House.

Last semester, students raised concerns with the College administration about the lack of transparency and student input that went into the first round of budget cuts. During this time, Bowman conceived of the “Idea Bank”—the online service in which members of the College community can suggest cost-cutting ideas. Both candidates say they’d like to see greater transparency on budget cuts, which they say would foster a more democratic process.


While canvassing in front of the Science Center, Bowman is in his element—relaxed as he speaks to undergrads he’s never met before. A member of the Spee and a resident of Pfoho’s Belltower—which has garnered a reputation for the parties it has hosted—Bowman said that he thinks that his sociable nature would help draw in supporters.

And as for the comparably soft-spoken Hysen, he has an unassuming demeanor, which supporters say belies his intellect. He said he would work well as Bowman’s right-hand man, as he “can do a lot of the support work that’s not the glamorous stuff.”

“It was kind of like a bromance from the start,” Lu said.

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