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Undergraduate Council Votes to Support Act on a Dream Against The Crimson

UC Meeting
Undergraduate Council members vote at a meeting in early November.

Harvard’s Undergraduate Council voted to pass a statement at its meeting Sunday in support of immigration advocacy group Act on a Dream’s concerns about The Harvard Crimson’s news policies and made recommendations to make reporting policies more transparent.

The statement, passed 15-13-4, comes after The Crimson covered Act on a Dream’s “Abolish ICE” protest in September. After the protest, Crimson reporters contacted a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson for comment. More than 900 people and several student groups have since signed an Act on a Dream petition condemning The Crimson’s decision to reach out for comment.

The council’s vote approved its own statement regarding the issue to be sent out to students in its weekly email.

“The Undergraduate Council stands in solidarity with the concerns of Act on a Dream, undocumented students, and other marginalized individuals on campus,” the statement reads. “It is necessary for the Undergraduate Council to acknowledge the concerns raised by numerous groups and students on campus over the past few weeks and to recognize the validity of their expressed fear and feelings of unsafety.”

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Members of several campus groups including Act on a Dream and the Harvard College Democrats have instructed their members not to speak to The Crimson unless it changes its policies.

Crimson President Kristine E. Guillaume ’20 wrote in an emailed statement that the publication seeks to hold itself to the “highest standards” of journalistic practice.

“Fundamental journalistic values obligate The Crimson to allow all subjects of a story a chance to comment,” Guillaume wrote. “This policy demonstrates a commitment to ensuring that the individuals and institutions we write about have an opportunity to respond to criticisms in order to ensure a fair and unbiased story.”

“We welcome feedback from our readers and from those we cover. In this case, we met with representatives of Act on a Dream to hear their concerns and explain our approach,” she added.

Oak Yard Representative Ethan J. Johnstone ’23 and Currier House Representative Fernando Urbina ’22 sponsored the council’s legislation. Seven freshman Yard representatives signed on as co-sponsors.

Johnstone said he and Urbina wrote the legislation in response to student requests for a UC statement in support of undocumented students.

“We think it’s really important that we amplify student voices on campus, especially those that are often marginalized,” Johnstone said. “We’re not attacking The Crimson at the same time. We just think they need to come together and come up with a sensible solution.”

Urbina said at the meeting that the council’s statement is not a call to boycott The Crimson.

“This statement does not mention the boycott whatsoever,” Urbina said. “It is simply a stepping stone that we recognize the concerns of Act on a Dream and undocumented students on campus, and we can begin and continue having conversations with these groups and finding solutions.”

Some council members, such as UC Vice President Julia M. Huesa ’20, said they are concerned the vote may be construed as “commenting on what the press does” and an attempt at censorship. Other students, such as Elm Yard Representative Phillip Meng ’23, called the statement “vague” and said they are not sure exactly what stance the statement is taking.

In addition to its statements directed at The Crimson, the UC’s statement includes actions that the council may review to formalize and expand its support for undocumented students, including leveraging media interaction training resources.

— Staff writer Kevin R. Chen can be reached at kevin.chen@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @kchenx.

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