UC Candidates Square Off in JFK Forum

Like hundreds of political dignitaries and leaders before them, the eight candidates vying for 2013 Undergraduate Council President and Vice President sat at the center of the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum Thursday evening to participate in the first-ever public UC election debate.

“I’m a little nervous, as you may tell. This is a big stage to be on,” Spenser R. Goodman ’14 said, eliciting nods from his fellow candidates.

More than fifty students gathered to watch the presidential and vice presidential hopefuls field questions and defend their platforms at the debate, which was moderated by IOP Director and former Kentucky Secretary of State C. M. “Trey” Grayson ’94. The event was sponsored by nearly a dozen student organizations and the Harvard College Women’s Center.

During the debate, student representatives from several on-campus groups asked the candidates five prepared questions that reflected their membership’s most pressing concerns. Most questions centered around diversity on campus—particularly in leadership positions.

Presidential candidate Michael C. George ’14 answered that his ultimate goal is to make the UC the most inclusive body on campus.

“The UC is the only representative body on campus and we are at our biggest when we represent every single group and every single student,” said George, who is also a Crimson news editor. “We want to foster campus discussion on what it means to be a diverse community.”

Similarly, presidential candidate Akshay M. Sharma ’14 and his running mate Akanksha Sharma ’14 said their whole platform hinges on making every student feel welcome. They are pursuing the creation of a University council and community council to discuss these issues.

“We want to connect the different student groups through executive emails and dialogues because the UC is a body that represents many student interests,” Akshay said.

Candidates made clear throughout their responses the differences between their platforms and those of the other tickets. Goodman and his running mate Darren C. McLeod ’14, an inactive Crimson sports editor, said promoting social life is central to their platform.

In this vein, Goodman said that he believes social programming is the strongest way to promote a more integrated community.

“One of the main goals of our platform is to provide safe, inclusive, and fun events that people can come to and make friends,” he said. “Our direction is promoting social life.”

Tara Raghuveer ’14 and Jennifer Q. Zhu ’14, a Crimson photo editor, on the other hand, said they are “demanding relevance” on campus. They are the first all-female ticket running for the UC in the past four years.

“We see the UC as becoming increasingly irrelevant on campus, but we see a way for it to positively influence our lives as students,” Raghuveer said. “People have asked me why we’re demanding relevance and not action, but relevance comes with action.”

Candidates were divided, however, when asked if they would allow the UC to take a stance on politically charged issues, such as debates over responsible University investments and the Occupy movement in the past.

“If we understand it to be a student need to take a stance on particular issues, then we will,” Akshay said.