A lot has been made this year about whether Harvard students need or should have a voice representing them on the Cambridge City Council. Having worked in politics prior to coming to Harvard, I couldn’t help but Google “Harvard” and “Cambridge City Council.” I came across an article in The Harvard Crimson written two years ago about Leland Cheung and was struck by this line: “For Cheung, facing his first re-election since taking office two years ago, politics is about fixing problems, not about putting on an act for a camera.”
The names working on the campaign may have changed, but I can tell you now from personal experience that everything in the article is still true. I’ve worked on campaigns from Barack Obama’s nationwide effort to one for local city controller race, and Cheung does have a unique and highly optimized style of campaigning he still keeps a trade secret. His dedication to residents and the job—not just campaigns—matches those of the best politicians I’ve known.
I also know Leland Cheung extends that dedication to Harvard students, even though we may not all know it and even though he graduated last June. Cheung is the leader that Harvard students need and fortunately, the leader that we already have.
When Cheung joined the Council in 2010 he radically changed the dialogue for the better. No longer could council members fault Harvard in general or attack its students without Cheung firing back. Videos from his early days on the Council show him explaining that members shouldn’t just make blanket statements—what the students want is often different from what the faculty wants, which in turn is often very different from what the administration wants.
Cheung has consistently worked to improve the lives of students here and represent our interests. He’s made campus safety one of his highest priorities by facilitating collaboration between university police and the Cambridge Police Department, getting lights put in on pedestrian pathways between campus and farther out dorms, and introducing BridgeStat, a statistical analysis program to stop crime before it spreads, which has led to significant improvements in Harvard Square and has been recognized for its effectiveness by the International Association of Crime Analysts.
Last term, when he was chair of the University Relations Committee, he regularly invited our elected representatives on the Harvard Graduate and Undergraduate Councils and gave them seats at the table. According to his office, he’s helped stave off eviction for off-campus students when a flood happened over spring break and the landlord threatened to dispose of all the possessions when they couldn’t move out or clean because they were away.
Leland Cheung has routinely been the go-to guy when student organizations sought permits to use public space for events. He tied Harvard closer to the community by introducing a program to broadcast events filmed on campus over local cable access TV. He’s marched alongside students in demonstrations and demanded the administration’s attention to our concerns.
Cheung has also helped bring about improvements to our life in the city that those of us just arriving on campus take for granted—from bringing Hubway to Cambridge, to promoting local retailers and late night eateries in Harvard Square, to bringing Wi-Fi to several nearby parks. He’s the one who’s proven he can get things done for us. A large factor in that is the fact that he was a part of the community before returning to graduate school here and is widely respected by long-time residents. So when he speaks on our behalf, they can’t dismiss him as someone who may be gone in a few years.
Leland Cheung isn’t just the councilor that Harvard students need; he’s the councilor we already have. Even if you haven’t yet heard of him and even if you haven’t had any reason to ask for his help, he’s the one you want. Leland Cheung has always kept an open line for students—remaining personally accessible via email, cell phone, Skype, chat, Facebook, Twitter, and even a “chat now” button on his website.
The reality is there’s no better candidate for Harvard students. He’s proven he cares about our interests and earned the respect necessary from the broader city to be effective in advocating for us. If you don’t know where to vote you’re likely either in Gund Hall or Quincy House. You can check whether you’re registered to vote and where to vote online. Whether you’re already registered to vote or soon will be, make sure you vote Leland Cheung number one on November 5.
Henry S. U. Shah ’17, a volunteer for the Cheung campaign, lives in Stoughton Hall.
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