On Monday, the Undergraduate Council narrowly struck down a proposed amendment to its bylaws that some representatives argued would have decreased transparency. The amendment would have required two-thirds majority approval of the Council, and it would have made it easier for the council to vote by secret ballot on some proposals. While we are grateful that the measure failed, we remained concerned that it nearly passed and that it was even considered.
We are stunned by the substantial support for this change to the UC’s bylaws. The motion failed by just one vote. Since UC parliamentary procedure requires a two-thirds majority for changes to its bylaws, over half of our UC representatives voted in favor of the measure. In essence, the majority of our student representatives voted to prevent us from knowing how they choose to represent us.
Moreover, at least one representative of the UC indicated that their vote on the measure was at least in part motivated by the fear that their voting record will affect their future job prospects; we hope this line of thinking was not very widespread. That this justification played a part in the decision-making process on this proposal at all is deeply troubling — and telling. As recent national conversations have demonstrated, many Americans perceive that students at elite universities often feel that they should not be held accountable for their actions at this stage of life.
This refusal to take responsibility for one’s own actions is disturbing. While Harvard undergraduates are young adults, they are still adults. As a result, we are all responsible for our actions here. Decisions made during our time as undergraduates should represent our character, and we would hope that all the choices we make — be they poor or courageous ones — with friends, in the classroom, in extracurriculars, and on the UC affect students’ futures.
Harvard has long attracted aspiring public figures, politicians, celebrities, and prospective world-renowned professors. Thus, we have consistently spoken to the need for Harvard to educate its student body on not only on how to be great, but also how to be good. If UC members, or indeed any other student, hope to occupy high-profile roles in the future, then they should spend their undergraduate years doing more than racking up accolades and connections. They should spend these years learning to hold themselves accountable for their decisions.
It is both ironic and alarming that the representatives who voted for such an anti-democratic measure might aspire to pursue careers in democratic government. While we expect these student representatives to understand the importance of transparency, this measure demonstrates that a majority of our representatives may be motivated by self-interest rather than a desire to serve our community. We urge the UC to reflect on how it can hold itself more accountable to voters, not less.
This staff editorial is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
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