Two referenda reached the requisite number of student signatures to appear on the ballot during the Undergraduate Council’s upcoming presidential election, according to UC Rules Committee Chair Conner P. Williams ’21.
Environmental advocacy group Divest Harvard submitted one referendum, calling on the University to disclose its holdings in the fossil fuels industry, commit to divesting its endowment from fossil fuels, and reinvest more sustainably by Earth Day 2020. Lucas Chu ’23 submitted the other referendum, which proposes to extend the closing times of breakfast and dinner by half an hour in Harvard University Dining Services facilities.
Referenda can appear on UC ballots through two methods: a vote by the student body or a vote by the council. The two aforementioned referenda qualified for the ballot by receiving signatures from at least 10 percent of the student body. The council has yet to vote on whether to include other referenda on the ballot as well.
UC referenda are meant to gauge the opinion of the student body on campus issues. If a referendum receives a majority vote on the ballot, the council will write a statement supporting the result of the referendum and outlining the UC’s plan to achieve the desired policy change, according to an email from UC Secretary Cade S. Palmer ’20, a former Crimson Sports Chair.
Students have voted on fossil fuel referenda in the past. Last year, a referendum to divest from the fossil fuel industry won support from 71.5 percent of voters. In 2012, 72 percent of students voted in favor.
“In a time of unprecedented climate emergency, Harvard has a responsibility as a highly privileged institution to model climate leadership through divestment—a baseline step towards fixing broken power systems that allow institutions and individuals to profit off the destruction of the planet,” this year’s divestment referendum reads.
University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain referred to previous statements in response to divestment.
“While we agree on the urgency of this global challenge, we respectfully disagree with divestment activists on the means by which a university should confront it,” he wrote in an emailed statement.
University administrators have long argued that the University’s endowment should not be used as a tool to enact social change. Instead, University President Lawrence S. Bacow has argued Harvard must work with industry players to combat climate change.
The meal times referendum proposes extending breakfast to 10:45 a.m. and dinner to 7:45 p.m. at all HUDS facilities and increasing the pay of HUDS staff accordingly.
Chu wrote in an emailed statement that he submitted the referendum in response to concerns he heard from other students about meal times.
“For most houses, dinner closes at 7:15, which is when many, if not most, students would rather begin eating,” Chu wrote.
Students will be able to vote on the referenda from noon on Nov. 11 to noon on Nov. 14.
— Staff writer Kevin R. Chen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @kchenx.