A frustrated Undergraduate Council heavily debated legislation supporting the Harvard chapter of Students for a Just and Stable Future (SJSF) before ultimately deciding to “kill the bill” due to concerns about setting unintended precedents.
SJSF, a student-led volunteer network that campaigns for solutions to the current climate crisis, plans to host a lobbying event on Earth Day and solicited official UC support for their cause, which would have provided them with publicity through inclusion in both the UC Weekly and the UC’s VeriCorps event sign-up list.
However, some members raised concerns that this legislation would be setting dangerous precedents. In particular, members worried that formally endorsing a group that promoted a particular cause—as opposed to other more campus-centric groups—would put the UC in a position of making decisions on what types of causes were appropriate to endorse.
Tengbo Li ’12, UC Education Committee Chair and sponsor of the act, tried to ensure members that this would not be an issue.
“While a lot of student groups may use us as a resource, I don’t think this is setting us up for any sort of tidal wave of student groups using us as publicity for their causes,” Li said.
Others felt that legislation was an unnecessary formality that would inconvenience future UC legislative procedures.
“We don’t want to set precedent that every time we want something on the UC Weekly, we bring it before council and debate for 20 minutes,” said UC Student Initiatives Committee Chair David Gonzalez ’11.
Daniel P. Bicknell ’13, who ultimately motioned to kill the bill, said he agreed with Gonzalez.
“I look forward to the event, but I don’t think we need legislation to support this,” he said.
As an alternative, Bicknell proposed that the event be publicized on the UC Weekly as a “featured event”—essentially maintaining the same publicity that would have been established by the debated publicity act, he said.
The only major change resulting from not passing the legislation is that the event will not also receive the informal endorsement of VeriCorps—a new UC initiative that aims to connect student groups and their events with interested students.
“Vericorps just started and it was publicized as supporting events, not advocacy things, so I feel uncomfortable having VeriCorps give this event official endorsement,” said Jennifer Q. Zhu ’14, the UC representative who had sponsored VeriCorps.
“This event doesn’t have to be publicized through the UC, it could always just be publicized through normal means like house lists.”
—Staff writer Rachael Apfel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.