The campaign for the presidency and vice presidency of the Harvard Undergraduate Council begins Wednesday, with four tickets vying for a chance to serve as the leaders of next year’s undergraduate governing body.
This year’s presidential candidates are:
- Scott Ely ’18, with running mate Evan M. Bonsall ’19
- Eduardo A. Gonzalez ’18, with running mate Alex Popovski ’19
- Yasmin Z. Sachee ’18, with running mate Cameron K. Khansarinia ’18
- Grant S. Solomon ’18, with running mate Alexander T. Moore ’18
Voting will be open for undergraduates next Monday Nov. 14 at noon through next Thursday Nov. 17 at noon, according to UC Election Commission Chair Matthew C. Estes ’18.
ELY AND BONSALL
Ely and Bonsall said their campaign focuses on four main areas: financial accessibility, sexual assault prevention, mental health, and promoting student voices. Ely, the current UC Education Committee Chair, is currently serving his third term on the Council. Bonsall, an Education Committee Vice Chair and Ely’s running mate, is currently serving his second term.
“We come from a place of experience in having gotten things done,” Ely said, pointing to his work on the College’s revamped General Education program and his push for programs of study for underrepresented groups.
Ely and Bonsall said they hoped to reduce expenditures on textbooks through a book exchange program and institute a “bridge program” to help low-income or first-generation incoming freshmen learn about campus resources.
“First semester of freshman year was pretty rough for me, like it is for a lot of people coming from similar backgrounds,” Bonsall, a first-generation college student, said. “I think we should really be trying to do everything we can to make Harvard a place that's more accessible for people from all socioeconomic backgrounds.”
Among their other goals, Ely and Bonsall also said they plan to improve access to mental health resources, work with Consent Advocates and Relationship Educators to institute sexual assault prevention training in all Houses, and continue this year’s Grant for an Open Harvard College to encourage students to create more open social spaces.
Ely also said he and Bonsall opposed the College’s sanctions on unrecognized single-gender social organizations, which bar students beginning with the Class of 2021 from holding campus leadership positions or athletic captaincies and from receiving College-sponsored scholarships if they are members of final clubs or Greek organizations.
“We're going to stand against the sanctions,” Ely said. “There's a disconnect between the stated goals of the University and the policy that they're trying to implement.”
GONZALEZ AND POPOVSKI
Gonzalez and Popovski said their campaign emphasizes helping students feel ownership over campus, prioritizing “our spaces,” “our health,” and “our experiences” at Harvard.
Gonzalez, currently serving his third term on the UC, is the former Freshman Class Committee Chair and a current Education Committee Vice Chair. Popovski, currently serving his second term on the UC, is the Vice Chair of the Student Initiatives Committee.
To improve campus social spaces, Gonzalez and Popovski said they would seek to allow first-year students to book common rooms for social events, create fast track party forms in all Houses, and push to turn the Cambridge Queen’s Head Pub into a club that could be “an attractive place for students to come party.”
Gonzalez and Popovski voiced support for the College’s policy on single-gender social organizations, though they acknowledged the issue is “highly nuanced” and criticized the lack of student input preceding the original announcement.
“Eduardo and I are in favor of the sanctions in principle,” Popovski said. “Women should absolutely have ownership and access to these spaces that have traditionally and institutionally been dominated by men.”
Gonzalez and Popovski also said they would advocate for more funding for peer counseling groups and work to integrate Counseling and Mental Health Services counselors and CARE representatives more closely with the Houses.
To improve student experiences on campus, Gonzalez and Popovski said they advocated for building an online textbook exchange service, requiring student organizations to publicize their comp processes when applying for College recognition, and creating an “academic bridge” program to allow incoming students from high schools with fewer resources to take some classes over the summer.
“The dream is that if you are fired up and ready to go to start your academic career on your own terms, you should be able to come in over the summer and have that essential first exposure to College that you're likely lacking if you come from an under-resourced high school,” Gonzalez said.
SACHEE AND KHANSARINIA
Sachee and Khansarinia said their campaign is based on three pillars: "arriving"—focused on programming and guidance for freshman, "vibing"—focused on improving social life, and "thriving"—focused on student life on campus.
Sachee is the current UC Student Relations Committee Chair and the former UC Secretary, and is serving her third term on the Council. Khansarinia, currently serving his second term on the Council, is the current UC Rules Committee Chair and former UC Parliamentarian.
Sachee and Khansarinia emphasized that their campaign will focus on practical and achievable goals, arguing that previous campaigns have focused on intangible ideas that the UC wasn’t able to follow through with.
“So often we have an infinite amount of conversations and town halls and task forces, but we never really take actionable steps,” Khansarinia said. “Our platform is a unique combination of actionable steps and tangible ideas that we can start working on our first day in office.”
Included in Sachee and Khansarinia’s campaign proposals are a “Q Guide for Comps” to make information about campus club comp processes more transparent, a textbook buyback program, and a partnership with the Harvard Alumni Association to pair alumni mentors with undergraduates.
Sachee and Khansarinia also said they plan to work closely with student groups on campus, both in creating a “multicultural cabinet” to address issues brought up by cultural organizations, and in student group-run bridge programs geared at helping freshmen adjust to life at the College.
“We, through our leadership on the UC, understand that the UC can't fix the bazillion issues that there are on this campus,” Sachee said. “We want to empower student groups that can.”
Sachee also said she hopes to institute mandatory annual sexual assault training for all undergraduates. Currently, freshmen undergo a mandatory workshop—and this year the College required students to participate in sexual assault prevention training modules—but Sachee said that annual training can help to reinforce values and remind students of parts of the workshop they may have forgotten.
“It is a big effort, but if this can prevent one sexual assault… it's worth it,” Sachee said.
SOLOMON AND MOORE
Solomon said he and Moore are campaigning on a platform to promote social inclusivity on campus. Solomon and Moore, who are both juniors and student athletes, are the only presidential and vice presidential candidates to have never previously served on the Council. Moore previously ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the UC as a Lowell House representative, and Solomon has never before made a bid for the UC.
Solomon said he felt that although lacking UC experience presented challenges, his ticket’s outsider status was an asset to the campaign. He argued that UC outsiders have the ability to offer fresh and creative ideas that the Council has not previously considered.
“I think we offer different ideas that people who have been in the UC might not see,” Solomon said. “In being student athletes, we touch on a big part of the community that represents a large part of the student body, and a lot of times their voices aren’t heard. There are issues that affect student athletes that would broadly affect the student body as a whole.”
Solomon said he and Moore would push for allowing alcohol in the Yard for those over 21, expanding Club 1636 to allow for more involvement with cultural groups, and establishing “sophomore re-orientation” programming to help sophomores get to know other students in their Houses.
Solomon also advocated for a program in which students from different campus groups would sign up to have meals together, with the goal of increasing exposure to students with different interests and perspectives. The program, Solomon said, would be similar to “TableTalk”—a program founded last year at the University of Pennsylvania that invites students who “would not interact under ordinary circumstances” to meet and ask each other questions over a meal.
“After speaking with a bunch of folks in the leadership in different communities and seeing what changes they want to see on campus, they feel like they don't get enough face time with these other communities,” Solomon said.
Consistent with previous UC elections, voting will take place entirely online, and will use the Hare-Clark voting system. Under the system, each voter may vote for more than one candidate, ranking their preferences in order. A ticket must receive a majority of votes to win, and a voter’s less preferred candidates will only be taken into consideration if their more preferred candidates have been eliminated.
Undergraduates will also be able to vote on three referendum questions: two concerning students’ opinions on unrecognized single-gender social organizations, and another asking whether students would support making the Harvard Turkey the official mascot of the University.
A presidential debate between the four tickets, hosted by The Crimson, will take place Friday at 7 p.m.
The newly elected president and vice president will take office at the start of next semester, taking over from current UC President Shaiba Rather ’17 and Vice President Daniel V. Banks ’17.