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Outside Overseers Ticket Comes Up Empty-Handed

Ron K. Unz ’83 arrived in Cambridge in February to hand deliver petitions that would enable him and others on his slate to become candidates for the Board of Overseers.
Ron K. Unz ’83 arrived in Cambridge in February to hand deliver petitions that would enable him and others on his slate to become candidates for the Board of Overseers.
By Andrew M. Duehren and Daphne C. Thompson, Crimson Staff Writers

None of the five Harvard alumni who ran on an outside ticket—dubbed “Free Harvard, Fair Harvard”—for Harvard’s Board of Overseers were elected to the body, the University announced Monday.

Instead, the five elected Overseers are P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale ’73, Helena Buonanno Foulkes ’86, Ketanji Brown Jackson ’92, Alejandro Ramírez Magaña ’94, and J. Kent Walker ’83. Harvard alumni elect members of the Board of Overseers, the University’s second highest governing body, for six-year terms to help deliberate on University decisions and affairs. Usually, Harvard announces the results of Overseer elections on Commencement day—this year, the results came a few days early.

Earlier this year, five alumni, led by Ron K. Unz ’83, launched a long-shot bid for the governing body on a two-pronged platform: abolish undergraduate tuition at the College and make public more data about Harvard’s admissions processes. After successfully petitioning for a spot on the Overseers ballot, the Free Harvard, Fair Harvard ticket, which also included five-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader, quickly became the subject of controversy.

Ron K. Unz '83.
Ron K. Unz '83. By Thomas W. Franck

University President Drew G. Faust denounced the ticket’s tenets, and one alumni group began a counter-campaign against the five outside candidates, arguing that their admissions proposals were mean to threaten race-based affirmative action. The Crimson also reported that Unz had donated thousands of dollars to a white nationalist organization and a number of extremist thinkers.

“It’s quite disappointing that we didn’t get on the Board of Overseers with our effort, but the truth is no petition candidate has sat on the Board of Overseers in about 25 years,” Unz said. “So I guess we should have considered [losing] being something that was likely to happen, though we obviously hoped otherwise.”

Alumni cast 35,870 ballots in the election, a marked uptick from previous years; in 2015, 26,400 ballots were submitted.

“We’re of course thrilled that the petition slate was defeated, and I think the voting turnout... just showed that the alumni were motivated to vote and to support diversity,” said Jeannie Park ’83, a founder of the alumni group formed to oppose the “Free Harvard, Fair Harvard” campaign.

The newly-elected Overseers—selected from a field of eight Harvard Alumni Association-nominated candidates, along with the five outsider candidates—represent a variety of professions.

Three come from corporate backgrounds: Foulkes is the president of CVS/pharmacy, Magaña the CEO of Cinépolis, and Walker a senior vice president and general counsel at Google. Chase-Lansdale is a provost at Northwestern University, while Jackson is a U.S. District Court judge for the District of Columbia.

—Staff writer Andrew M. Duehren can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @aduehren.

—Staff writer Daphne C. Thompson can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @daphnectho.

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