The Undergraduate Council unanimously passed legislation formally establishing caucuses Sunday, six months after a similar piece of legislation was narrowly defeated last semester after weeks of heated debate.
The new legislation allows any number of UC members to form a caucus, whereas last semester’s proposed legislation did not recognize caucuses with fewer than three members.
Former UC President Shaiba Rather ’17 and UC Vice President Daniel V. Banks ’17 did not support the previous legislation, arguing creating caucuses would add complex layers to the Council.
Current UC President Yasmin Z. Sachee ’18 and Vice President Cameron K. Khansarinia ’18, though, voted in favor of the caucus legislation at the time.
“The goal of this legislation is not to create a new set of powers, but rather to empower,” said Cabot House representative Christopher B. Cruz ’17, a sponsor of the legislation.
Crimson Yard representative Arnav Agrawal ’20 said he worried the legislation would add superfluous “bureaucracy” to the Council.
“What benefit do you think this formalization can do, except just adding more complex bureaucracy?” he asked.
Adams House representative Nicholas P. Whittaker ’19 said the new legislation allows caucuses to send a strong message to underrepresented campus groups, make weekly updates during general meetings, and apply for grants from a Grant for an Open Harvard—a $30,000 joint fund between the UC and the College.
However, Ivy Yard representative Grace S. Pan ’20 said she wondered if allowing caucuses to speak at general meetings would prolong them.
“Having ten, fifteen weekly caucus updates every week, that would prolong UC general meetings by a lot and I’m worried about that,” she said.
Rules Committee Chair Evan M. Bonsall ’19 noted that the legislation said caucuses “may request” updates, and did not have to speak at weekly general meetings.
“I hope that UC members on caucuses will be able to restrain themselves a little bit,” he said. “And give updates when they really have something to say.”
Voicing a different concern, Elm Yard representative Henry S. Atkins ’20 said he did not want the legislation to signal to others that the UC is finished recruiting diverse students to its ranks.
“I don't want people to think that it in anyway absolves us of our own obligation to go to these different communities and urge them to get on the Council themselves,” he said.
Whittaker said he agreed, and instead sees the role of causes as helping to add more diverse members.
“I think the end goal of the caucuses is in fact to increase diversity on the Council, not just to provide an increase in policy,” he said.
Sachee later read a statement from an absent Khansarinia, who urged members to vote for the legislation.
“The ability to adequately represent people of diverse backgrounds is a necessary component of any government, even in our student one. We can always be more representative, more open and accessible. This legislation is an important step in that process,” it read.
The UC also passed legislation formally giving them the right to recognize new student groups, after its Rules Committee recommended a set of guidelines to evaluate prospective clubs.
—Staff writer Andrew J. Zucker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewJZucker.