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UC President on Unionization Election: 'Go Out and Vote'

UC President Catherine L. Zhang '19 and Vice President Nicholas D. Boucher '19.
UC President Catherine L. Zhang '19 and Vice President Nicholas D. Boucher '19. By Kathryn S. Kuhar
By Jonah S. Berger, Crimson Staff Writer

Declining to take a side on student unionization, Undergraduate Council President Catherine L. Zhang ’19 urged eligible students to “go out and vote” in an election that will decide whether over 4,000 graduate and undergraduate teaching and research assistants gain the ability to collectively bargain with the University.

The two-day election, which begins Wednesday, may mark the end of a cumbersome, protracted legal battle on the issue of whether students may unionize. The process has seen a back-and-forth of appeals between the University and Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers ever since a November 2016 election, in which students narrowly voted down a bid for unionization.

After a lengthy legal dispute, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the eligible voter list generated by the University did not meet the agency’s requirements and mandated another election.

“Hopefully, people will turn out to the polls and we definitely encourage them to do so,” Zhang said.

Despite these appeals to prospective voters, Zhang and vice president Nicholas D. Boucher ’19 refused to take a position on the unionization debate.

“As far as the Council goes right now, there’s not any initiative to take any specific side as a Council,” Boucher said. “But at the end of the day, I think one thing we’re all in agreement on is that we want a fair election and we want people to be informed.”

Zhang and Boucher also addressed the ongoing legal dispute over student admissions documents, the latest clash in an ongoing lawsuit brought by Students for Fair Admissions—an anti-affirmative action group — against the University.

On April 10, Judge Allison D. Burroughs of the U.S. District Court in Boston ruled that a small, redacted portion of more than 90,000 pages of admissions documents submitted by the University—including admissions files and internal correspondence between admissions officers—would soon be released to the public.

“It would seem problematic if it became public record, all of what presumably are very personal statements and personal pieces of information that students and applicants to the College put forward in their applications,” Boucher said. “I think it’s fair to say that our role is to serve the students and we want to represent the students’ best interests.”

The duo would not comment on the merits of the lawsuit, though, saying only that “diversity” is something the University should strive for.

“I think this lawsuit is nuanced and complicated and I don’t know that we’re qualified to say anything on the lawsuit,” Boucher said. “But we recognize the values that come from a diverse community.”

Zhang also said she and Boucher have spoken to University president-elect Lawrence S. Bacow in an informal capacity and look forward to working with him this fall.

“I think he’s a very honest and genuine person,” Zhang said. “He’s someone...who does really put the undergraduate experience at the forefront.”

Boucher echoed Zhang’s praise for Bacow, saying he is someone who “cares about students.” Boucher added that he appreciated the work President Drew G. Faust has done during her tenure.

“It’s been a pleasure working with President Faust,” Boucher said. “It’s sad to see her go, but we’re excited for the opportunities that will come with President Bacow coming in.

—Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonahberger98

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