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UC Strikes Down Proposal to Establish Formal Caucuses

After two weeks of contentious debate, the Undergraduate Council narrowly overturned a bid to establish formal caucuses for underrepresented minorities on the UC after the proposed amendment did not receive a necessary two-thirds approval.

The Council first considered the bylaws amendment last week, but postponed a vote on the motion until Sunday evening. Under the legislation, groups of three or more UC representatives from an underrepresented group could have applied to the UC’s Student Relations Committee to become an officially recognized caucus. The caucuses would have had the authority to endorse legislation and release statements.

Undergraduate Council Debates HUDS Support
Shaiba Rather '17 and Daniel V. Banks '17.

Several representatives raised concerns about the three-representative requirement to form a caucus.

“We [would] have a two-tiered system,” Crimson Yard representative Arnav Agrawal ’20 said during debate. “Certain underrepresented groups will have an official caucus, and there may be a Native American caucus which will never reach eligibility because they have so few members at Harvard.”

Still, UC Rules Committee Chair Cameron K. Khansarinia ’18 argued the legislation would not infringe on the powers of unrecognized caucuses.

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“Just because we're institutionalizing these caucuses doesn't prevent unofficial caucuses from forming,” Khansarinia said.

Other representatives said the legislation would make the existing informal caucus system unnecessarily complex. Presently, there are no formal caucuses but there exist a number of unofficial identity-based groups within the UC, including the BGLTQ caucus, the black caucus, and the Latinx caucus.

“We are adding layers and layers to something that only needs one simple catalyst: a few members of the UC who care about their identity and how it integrates with their community,” UC Vice President Daniel V. Banks ’17 said.

After a lengthy debate, 26 representatives voted in favor of the legislation, 16 voted against, and three abstained. Thirty-one representatives voting in favor would have been necessary to reach the two-thirds supermajority required to amend the bylaws to formalize caucuses.

Toward the start of the meeting, UC President Shaiba Rather ’17 also announced the College has offered $5,000 to the Council for a “Strike Community Building Fund,” in response to concerns presented by an ongoing strike by Harvard University Dining Services workers that began about three weeks ago.

The Undergraduate Council voted earlier this month to endorse HUDS workers in their efforts to strike. Since then, the Council has funded donuts and coffee for the workers, and used emergency funds to provide sandwiches for students.

Rather said the purpose of the community building fund is to “mobilize the community to build up energy that is somewhat lost in closed dining halls.” College administrators had previously expressed concern over how the strike could negatively affect House life, and the OSL and University President’s Office have funded events during the strike—often with food.

“We're happy to receive those funds, and happy to work with the OSL to return to some normalcy on campus,” Rather said.

At the start of the meeting, UC Election Commission Chair Matthew C. Estes ’18 outlined the timeline for the UC presidential election this year. The candidacy declaration form opens Sunday night and is due next Sunday. Candidates must receive 150 petition signatures in order to appear on the ballot.

The presidential campaign officially begins Nov. 8, with voting opening on Nov. 14 and closing on Nov 17. In addition to voting for the next UC president and vice president, undergraduates will also be able to vote for referenda that receive either two-thirds Council approval or 670 petition signatures. The election and referenda results will be announced at 10 p.m. on Nov. 17.

The following representatives voted in favor of the legislation:

Victor C. Agbafe ’19 (Dunster)

Henry S. Atkins ’20 (Elm Yard)

Evan M. Bonsall ’19 (Winthrop)

Al B. Corvah ’18 (Mather)

Christopher B. Cruz ’17 (Cabot)

Scott Ely ’18 (Adams)

Eduardo A. Gonzalez ’18 (Mather)

William A. Greenlaw ’17 (Pforzheimer)

Adam Harper ’20 (Elm Yard)

Ruiqi He ’19 (Leverett)

Cameron K. Khansarinia ’18 (Cabot)

Vimal S. Konduri ’17 (Winthrop)

Taylor D. Marquis ’18 (Eliot)

Neel Mehta ’18 (Pforzheimer)

Benjamin F. Molin ’18 (Lowell)

Olu Oisaghie ’19 (Quincy)

Sruthi Palaniappan ’20 (Ivy Yard)

Jungyeon Park ’20 (Oak Yard)

Neha K. Reddy ’18 (Leverett)

Mati C.M. Reed ’19 (Eliot)

Yasmin Z. Sachee ’18 (Currier)

Michael Scherr ’20 (Oak Yard)

Ben Sorkin ’20 (Ivy Yard)

Maureen Tang ’20 (Crimson Yard)

Nicholas Whittaker ’19 (Adams)

Catherine L. Zhang ’19 (Cabot)

The following representatives voted against the legislation:

Arnav Agrawal ’20 (Crimson Yard)

Daniel V. Banks ’17 (Dunster)

Nicholas D. Boucher ’19 (Mather)

Berkeley Brown ’18 (Lowell)

Laura S. Chang ’19 (Kirkland)

Tingyue Cui ’20 (Elm Yard)

Samarth Gupta ’18 (Lowell)

Meriton Ibrahimi ’18 (Pforzheimer)

Diana Im ’17 (Kirkland)

Nadine Khoury ’20 (Crimson Yard)

Denise J. Kwong ’19 (Quincy)

Grace Pan ’20 (Ivy Yard)

Alex Popovski ’19 (Dunster)

Shaiba Rather ’17 (Cabot)

Madeleine H. Stern ’18 (Winthrop)

Anna T. Wechsler ’18 (Adams)

The following representatives abstained from voting:

Ziyad J. McLean ’18 (Currier)

Kenneth C. Palmer ’19 (Eliot)

Katie Wang ’20 (Oak Yard)

The following representatives were not present for the vote:

Ashri Anurudran ’19 (Currier)

Joseph A. Paul ’17 (Kirkland)

Kai Potter ’19 (Leverett)

Laila M. Smith ’18 (Dudley)

Eric Wang ’19 (Dunster)

—Staff writer Brian P. Yu can be reached at brian.yu@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @brianyu28.

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