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Coalition for a Diverse Harvard Selects Endorsements for Overseers, HAA Candidates

University Hall.
University Hall. By Michael Gritzbach
By Alexandra A. Chaidez and Aidan F. Ryan, Crimson Staff Writers

The Coalition for a Diverse Harvard — an alumni group focused on increasing diversity at Harvard — endorsed seven candidates in this year’s Board of Overseers election and six candidates in the race for an elected director position on the board of the Harvard Alumni Association Thursday.

The Coalition formed in 2016 in response to a controversial outsider ticket in that year’s Board of Overseers election. The ticket ran on a contentious platform of abolishing tuition and increasing transparency in the undergraduate admissions process, which they argued may discriminate against Asian-American immigrants.

The group backed seven of out of the nine Overseer candidates in this year’s election: Alice H. Chen, Ryan M. Wise, Janet S. Echelman ’87, John B. King Jr.’96, Vivian Y. Hunt ’89, Scott C. Collins ’87, and Reshma M. Saujani.

The Coalition also supported six out of the nine HAA candidates: Ethel Billie Branch ’01, Adrienne E. Dominguez ’90, Christina Lewis ’02, Salomé Cisnal de Ugarte, Bryan C. Barnhill II ’08, and Zandile H. Moyo ’00.

The Harvard Alumni Association typically nominates eight candidates, but this year, the organization nominated nine to account for the early resignation of current Overseer James E. Hildreth ’79. Hildreth chose to step down early due to personal obligations.

Coalition member Michael G. Williams ’81 said the group's endorsements reflected a “diverse and interesting and talented” set of candidates. Williams also noted that, if elected, the endorsed candidates could advocate for race-conscious admission policies and the establishment of a formal ethnic studies program.

“If the alumni chose to support the candidates that we support, we think that there will be people involved in the elected director's side and on the Overseers side who could play a very key role in terms of supporting diversity at Harvard,” Williams said.

In its announcement, the Coalition indicated that none of the 18 candidates they recommended publicly identify as BGLTQ or “have substantial experience in addressing” BGLTQ issues, which is something that it hopes to address going forward.

“This is an issue that we and the Harvard Gender & Sexuality Caucus will raise with the Harvard Alumni Association,” the statement reads.

Harvard Alumni Association President Margaret M. Wang ’09 did not respond to a request for a comment.

All 18 candidates for both the Board of Overseers and Harvard Alumni Association responded to a diversity questionnaire created by the Coalition and 13 other organizations including the Alumnae-i Network for Harvard Women, First Generation Harvard Alumni, and the Harvard Alumnae of Color. A committee within the Coalition used the survey responses to select candidates to officially endorse.

Eligible voters will receive paper ballots from University administrators by April 1. For the first time, Harvard degree holders will also be able to vote online through a website that will open on April 3, according to Harvard Alumni Association’s website. Alumni will have until May 21 to return print or online ballots to the Harvard Alumni Association in order for their votes to count.

—Staff writer Alexandra A. Chaidez can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @a_achaidez.

—Staff writer Aidan F. Ryan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @AidanRyanNH.

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