The UC’s ‘Great Reform’ Misses the Mark

A Conversation with Sruthi and Julia
Sruthi Palaniappan '20 and Julia M. Huesa '20 are the president and vice president of the Undergraduate Council.

In their last meeting of the semester, the Undergraduate Council voted on two proposals which, taken together, overturn over 40 years of precedent to prohibit the president and vice president from voting on or sponsoring legislation. These proposals — which their sponsors saw fit to call the “Great Reform” — were introduced after a representative questioned the wording of a portion of the UC’s Constitution, sparking debate on whether “executive officers” were eligible to vote. The controversy centered on the fact that, as defined by its constitution, the president and vice president are technically not “members” of the Council.

The fact that debate over this constitutional technicality occupied the UC’s attention for a week is uncommonly silly, not to mention disappointing. Rather than focusing upon purely parliamentary matters, the UC would do better to actively turn its attention towards more salient issues on which it may better serve the student body its members have been elected to represent.

The gravity of choosing whether to overturn four decades of precedent is not lost upon us. To this end, the portions of the UC’s meeting time spent discussing and deliberating upon the practical impacts of removing their executive officers’ voting and sponsorship privileges appear reasonable, as this decision significantly impacts the way the Council operates from this point forward. Such relevant discussion points include concerns raised by representatives who cautioned against disenfranchising the only two members of the UC whose platform is held accountable to the entire student body. Given that the president and vice president of the UC have lost the power to propose legislation, we fear the student body’s ability to hold them and future UC executive officers accountable for their campaign promises — as we believe they must — have been thrown into question.

Irrespective of the practical impacts these proposals may have on the functioning of the UC, the fact remains that the only proposal passed by the UC during its deliberations on this topic did not grapple directly with the issue at hand at all — rather, it solely established which UC members may interpret the organization’s constitution. The purely bureaucratic nature of this proposal — which its sponsors, in a baffling and self-aggrandizing display, dubbed the “Great Compromise” — and the base fact that this entire issue was precipitated on the basis of a minute, constitutional detail strikes us as downright whimsical, not to mention indicative of the body’s ineffectuality. As this Board has previously opined, the UC would do better to spend its time and energies working actively to assist and represent the College’s student body, rather than debating parliamentary issues we doubt are ever at the forefront of students’ minds.


It is obviously preferable that the Council function under clearly defined parliamentary procedures, but dedicating extensive bandwidth to such issues ignores the litany of more relevant matters that UC members, as elected representatives, would do well to emphasize instead. The nature of the UC’s “Great Reform” exemplifies the dysfunctionalities present within the UC, which have motivated this board in the past to call for dramatic reorganization of the body, including restricting its purview to funding student organizations. These recommendations, which we reaffirm today, are drastic but reflect the reality of the UC as it functions today. Barring such radical reform, members of the UC must carefully consider their priorities. If they truly wish to represent the student body, their legislative priorities should reflect the priorities of those who elected them.

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.