Referenda focusing on breakfast-time meetings, all-male final clubs, and sexual assault are now on the ballot for the November Undergraduate Council election, and supporters are in the process of gathering student signatures.
The three ballot items have until Monday, Nov. 9 to collect the required 670 signatures. A referendum represents the council’s official position if a majority of students vote in the election and a majority of the vote favors the ballot question. However, approved referenda in no way bind the University to take action. The questions will appear on the ballots with statements in support, and any student is free to write a statement against any of the referenda, according to UC Rules Committee Chair Brett M. Biebelberg '16.
One proposal asks students if a provision should be added to the College’s student handbook essentially prohibiting students from joining all-male final clubs. Another seeks to end student breakfast meetings, and a third calls on the central administration to increase levels of student input in changing Harvard’s sexual assault policy.
A referendum to add an anti-final club provision to the student handbook originally called on Harvard administrators to “reclaim administrative control” over the clubs. Jordan T. Weiers ’16, the sponsor of the final club referendum and a critic of the clubs, decided to change the question in order to take a more straight-forward approach in controlling final clubs.
“The University’s authority to do the previous referendum was murky at best,” Weiers said, referencing previous media coverage that cast doubt on the original referendum’s legal basis.
As of Wednesday evening, Weiers’s rewritten referendum had 135 of the 670 signatures required to appear on the ballot later this month. The measure now asks if a “provision be added to the Harvard College Student Handbook making enrollment at the College contingent upon abstaining from membership and participation in traditionally male final clubs."
The sexual assault policy referendum, submitted by Julia R. Geiger ’16 on behalf of Our Harvard Can Do Better, a student group advocating for modifications to Harvard’s sexual assault policy, asks if administrators should be required to open policy task force meetings to all interested students. Earlier this semester, representatives from the anti-sexual assault advocacy group questioned University President Drew G. Faust about the possibility of increasing student input when discussing changes sexual assault policy.
Historically, Geiger claimed, changes to Harvard’s sexual assault policies have been made without student feedback. The proposal from Our Harvard Can Do Better has gathered the most signatures of any of the questions, with 235 of the 670 signatures gathered.
Lastly, a referendum asking student opinion about breakfast meetings seeks to address the “collective cultural problem” of the early morning meetings, according to co-sponsor Colin J. F. Diersing ’16. Diersing said that breakfast meetings have the tendency to be both “unpleasant” and “unproductive,” because meetings’ attendees would rather remain sleeping.
“They generally could be rescheduled for a time later in the day, if they just tried a little harder,” Diersing said. He added that he does not want to detract attention from more serious campus-wide issues with his referendum, which has 45 signatures. The meeting measure was submitted by Kim F. Soffen ’16.
A fourth referendum, which asks students if the Pusey Library should be converted into a freshmen-oriented social space, will automatically appear on the ballot, since it received over a two-thirds approval by the UC itself.—Staff writer Jalin P. Cunningham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @JalinCunningham.
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