The Undergraduate Council has recently found itself in no shortage of controversy, as its members have debated whether to fund and endorse a number of contentious issues. Last week, the UC voted to allocate $2,050 to fund “Israeli Apartheid Week” — an international movement to raise awareness of treatment of Palestinians in Israel — hosted by the Palestinian Solidarity Committee on Harvard’s campus. This week, the Council voted to endorse and publicize “Heat Week” — a series of events speaking to climate change and fossil fuel divestment hosted by Harvard Undergraduates for Environmental Justice and Divest Harvard. On the heels of this decision, they also endorsed a petition created by the Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign.
In voting to fund or endorse an event, members of the UC should continue to engage in thoughtful and meaningful conversation that provides a platform for a wide array of perspectives on complex issues. Internal discussion on weighty matters is not enough, however. By way of ballot referenda, public forums, or other means of sourcing valuable student opinion, the Council should always consider its overriding goal: to represent the student body and its values in its projects.
The UC must strive to make its decisions on whether to fund or endorse initiatives through an objective, fair, and balanced process. At present, it is unclear how these choices reflect the UC’s collective values and sense of purpose. For example, though UC President Sruthi Palaniappan ’20 and Vice President Julia M. Huesa ’20 cited a referendum on divestment from fossil fuels as part of the logic of its endorsement, Huesa noted that the legislation is meant to promote dialogue. While there need not be a contradiction here, we call on the Council to clarify whether it funds events as political endorsements or in its capacity as an organization charged with promoting dialogue.
This is not to say that UC-funded or endorsed events should avoid politics altogether. On the contrary, the Council should continue to fund initiatives or movements on campus that speak to a variety of ideologies. For many of these groups, the UC may be its only means of securing funding. However, events that are chosen for funding should be rooted in the goal of sparking meaningful and constructive dialogue within our student body. Initiatives that aim to simply provoke or espouse hateful beliefs toward any members of our community should not be supported through the UC platform merely for the sake of offering different perspectives on campus.
To the extent that the UC might make decisions on political bases, the tone and content of its elections should reflect that aspect of its members’ role. If elected representatives endorse or fund certain events as a result of these ideologies, the student body should have the right to consider this aspect during the election season.
Politics aside, we hope to continue seeing members of the UC involved in comprehensive dialogue before deciding to endorse or fund an initiative. To truly be representative of the student body, it must strive to consider each project fully before casting a final vote.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.