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UC Candidates Spar at Crimson Crossfire Debate

The four tickets competing for the Undergraduate Council’s top leadership positions questioned each other on their platforms and track records at a rowdy “Crimson Crossfire” debate Saturday night, which was attended by more than 100 undergraduates and held by The Crimson.

The audience, which included the current UC President Gus A. Mayopoulos ’15 drinking from a flask, cheered raucously and frequently shouted at the candidates. The debate followed one held at the Institute of Politics Thursday and offered candidates the opportunity to directly ask their competitors questions. Candidates did not receive any questions beforehand. 

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From the start, the pairs sought to differentiate themselves. While duo Ava Nasrollahzadeh ’16 and Dhruv P. Goyal ’16 handed out polished posters to their supporters, Luke R. Heine ’17 and Stephen A. Turban ’17 provided crayons and coloring sheets.

When asked about the biggest issue facing the study body, both Heine and the ticket of Faith A. Jackson ’16 and Happy Yang ’16 emphasized a problem with exclusivity and a lack of social space on campus.

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“I think it’s despicable that every safe space for minorities is literally underground,” Jackson said, referring to the Harvard College Women’s Center in Canaday’s basement and the Office of BGLTQ Student Life in Boylston’s basement. “This is why we’re fighting for a multicultural center. On a Friday night, that’s the most divisive time on our campus.”

UC Crimson Crossfire
The four UC presidential tickets debated and answered questions on the platforms, past accomplishments, and plans for the Council if elected on Saturday night. The crossfire debate was co-organized by the Undergraduate Council and the Harvard Crimson.

For his part, Heine argued for undergraduate input in the building plans of the Smith Campus Center.

Presidential candidate Meghamsh Kanuparthy ’16 also called for an increased student role in administrative decision-making, describing the decision to close the Stillman Infirmary without widespread student consultation beforehand as “patronizing.”

“It comes down to a pattern that happens over and over again. Decisions get made and then students get consulted,” Kanuparthy said. “People decide what’s going to happen and then pretend having a town hall afterwards makes it up.”

Nasrollahzadeh similarly criticized the infirmary’s closing, saying that students not having a place on campus where they can go after 10 p.m. for urgent care “really sucks.”

Later in the debate, Yang and Jackson advocated for reevaluating the University-wide sexual assault policy to potentially include an “affirmative consent” clause, despite the fact that Mia Karvonides, the University’s Title IX officer, has said the policy’s language will not change.

“What we actually need to do is perhaps have a referendum where students vote on affirmative consent,” Jackson said. “There is no reason that students should not be deciding on this instead of just having 45 members of a 6,700 person community decide.”

With candidates directly addressing components of their competitors’ platforms, criticism flew freely. While Heine and Turban proposed allowing clubs to spend UC funding on alcohol, Kanuparthy, who is running with Ema H. Horvath ’16, called the proposal a “question that’s already been answered.”

“We’re not doing it because the lawyers stepped in and said we couldn’t do it,” Kanuparthy said. “The last time we tried this, all of the funding for student groups got pulled, and I don’t think that’s the world we want.”

The questions the candidates asked each other ranged from serious to silly. Yang opened the cross-questioning by asking Turban, “How do you tie a bow tie?” in response to rumors that he wears clip-ons.

Yet other questions focused on candidates’ campaign platforms, including one from Horvath asking Nasrollahzadeh and Goyal to explain their proposal that the UC should act as a middleman for distributing alumni donations to student groups.

—Staff writer Sara A. Atske can be reached at sara.atske@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Amna H. Hashmi can be reached at amna.hashmi@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter@amna_hashmi.

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