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UC Changes Committee Structure in Unanimous Vote

A Conversation with Sruthi and Julia
Sruthi Palaniappan '20 and Julia M. Huesa '20, President and Vice President of the Undergraduate Council, proposed changes to the group's committee structure.

The Undergraduate Council voted unanimously to alter its committee system at its general meeting Sunday, changing some of the organizational structures that have governed the body since its establishment.

The Council’s changes, enacted through one constitutional amendment and one change to the group’s bylaws, will reshape how the UC determines which members work on various issues.

The UC has historically comprised an executive board and six standing committees, each given a different set of responsibilities. UC President Sruthi Palaniappan ’20 and Vice President Julia M. Huesa ’20 proposed changes to the Council’s rules in order to dissolve the Student Life, Student Initiatives, and Student Relations committees. The newly established Health, Safety, and Wellness Committee; Social and Residential Life Committee; and communications team will take over most of the dissolved groups' responsibilities.

“A lot of these changes have to do with things that have never been changed in the Constitution since the UC was created in 1982,” Palaniappan said. “This is one of the biggest changes that we’ve ever seen on the UC, because it changes fundamentally how we are operating and what are the structures that we have in place to facilitate the work that we are doing.”

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Palaniappan and Huesa proposed the changes in order to clarify the roles of each committee and to allow the UC to run more effectively, they said.

“Some of the committee titles have been overly broad, so we were really hoping to create committees that have defined names specific to the initiatives that we are seeking to work on,” Palaniappan said.

Under the new system, the Health, Safety, and Wellness Committee will oversee the UC’s work relating to physical and mental health, sexual violence prevention and response, student safety, and spiritual life. The Social and Residential Life Committee will strive to improve aspects of students’ experiences in dorms and the upperclassmen houses, and will oversee the Council’s work on social spaces, dining services, transportation, and storage, according to Palaniappan.

Sunday’s changes to the UC’s rules also established a group of communications directors who will serve on the communications team in addition to their primary roles on other committees. Previously, UC representatives on the Student Relations Committee — the communication team’s predecessor — typically did not hold other positions.

“If you were a Student Relations Committee member, you wouldn’t necessarily have to be a member of another committee, and that didn’t really make sense because we were supposed to be publicizing the work that other committees were doing,” Huesa said.

Many UC representatives said they hope the new committee structure will allow them to take on projects more effectively.

“I think having these committees that are entirely focused on exactly what students want to do is going to be a way for the UC to achieve a lot more good publicity and for us to do a lot more,” UC Secretary Cade S. Palmer ’20, a former sports chair of The Crimson, said.

Palaniappan and Huesa’s amendment retained the Finance, Education, and First-Year Class committees, though Dunster House Representative Gevin B. Reynolds ’19 proposed an amendment during Sunday’s meeting to rebrand the Education Committee as the Academic Life Committee. He said he believes the committee’s current name is too broad.

“The title ‘Education Committee’ encapsulates everything that goes into your experience here at Harvard,” Reynolds said. “Changing it to ‘Academic Life Committee’ is more narrow and more specific to what sets the committee apart from the other ones.”

The UC unanimously accepted Reynold’s amendment.

The Council will hold internal elections for the chairs of the Health, Safety, and Wellness Committee and the Social and Residential Life Committee in the coming weeks. Current representatives will be eligible to apply for the communications directors positions, and Palaniappan and Huesa will select five communications directors from the pool of applicants.

“We hope that this will be one of the most significant changes to the Council structure that will really allow a sustainable way for the Council to effectively run for decades,” Palaniappan said.

— Staff writer Kevin R. Chen can be reached at kevin.chen@thecrimson.com.

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