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UC Voices Frustration at Smith, Nixes Automatic Section Size Question

By Noah J. Delwiche, Crimson Staff Writer

Undergraduate Council leaders maintained a critical tone toward Harvard administrators in the weekly UC meeting Sunday, voicing frustration that Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith has not yet scheduled a meeting with UC leadership to discuss student concerns.

Representatives also took a rare move at their meeting by striking down, in an overwhelming majority vote, legislation that would have automatically placed a referendum question on section size on this month's election ballot.

UC President Gus A. Mayopoulos ’15, largely reading from a prepared statement, explained to the Council that he has been in contact with Smith’s office for four weeks, but has been unable to arrange a meeting.

Mentioning the Council’s push for more funding and their continued criticism of a recent decision to remove difficulty ratings from the Q Guide, Mayopoulos said, “there is no good news on either of these topics.”

Mayopoulos, along with UC Vice President Sietse K. Goffard ’15, alleged that Smith has delayed the pace of conversations regarding the UC’s budget as well as the Q Guide change.

“Students are part of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. We deserve to meet with the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In reality, this is the only way that we can move these issues forward,” Mayopoulos said after the meeting.

Goffard echoed a similar tone, saying that both University President Drew G. Faust and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana agreed to meet with the UC more quickly than Smith’s office.

“Maybe [Smith] does not see this as much of a priority as we do and maybe as, for example, Dean Khurana would,” Goffard said.

Smith was not available for comment by press time.

The Council also debated whether to automatically include a referendum question on the UC’s ballot that would have polled students on whether they endorsed capping discussion and lab section sizes to 12 students.

A referendum may be placed on the ballot in two ways—any student or group may gather 670 signatures or the Council may, by a two-thirds vote, automatically push the question to the ballot. Representatives agreed on the content of the question, but debated how it should be placed on the ballot.

UC Rules Committee Chair Brett M. Biebelberg ’16 voiced his approval of the question’s placement on the ballot, but argued that the Harvard Teaching Campaign, a group of graduate students spearheading the initiative, should have to garner the requisite signatures.

“I think that they should have to prove that their question deserves to be on the ballot by garnering 670 signatures,” Biebelberg said.

Meanwhile, UC Education Committee Chair Dhruv P. Goyal ’16 argued that because the Council endorsed the section size cap last year and because the Teaching Campaign may not be well-equipped to gather undergraduate signatures, the Council should place the question on the ballot.

“It makes complete sense for the Undergraduate Council to propose this referendum,” Goyal said.

Nearly two-thirds of representatives voted against the measure, a relatively uncommon move for a Council that has typically tabled, rather than voted down, legislation.

Goyal said that he and other representatives will assist the Teaching Campaign in gathering signatures, but may bring legislation back to the Council next Sunday, depending on their progress.

The Council also voted in favor of placing a question concerning Q Guide difficulty ratings on the ballot, citing a lack of organized student activism on the matter.

Finally, representatives passed changes to legislation passed last semester mandating that House committees submit itemized budgets in order to receive Council funding. HoCos must now submit budgets once a semester and use a standardized format.

—Staff writer Noah J. Delwiche can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ndelwiche.

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