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UC President, Vice President Will Spend Last Term Institutionalizing New Initiatives

A Conversation with Sruthi and Julia
Sruthi Palaniappan '20 and Julia M. Huesa '20, President and Vice President of the Undergraduate Council, pictured here in January 2019.

After their first semester in office, Undergraduate Council President Sruthi Palaniappan ’20 and Vice President Julia M. Huesa ’20 said they will spend the remainder of their term institutionalizing initiatives they started last semester.

The duo piloted many programs during their term, including a community lunch during Junior Family Weekend, the First-Year Students of Color Welcome Event, and the First-Year Interfaith Welcome Event. Though the UC funded the events this year, Huesa said they hope Harvard offices like the Office of Diversity Education and Support will be able to manage and fund the events in the future.

“One of the things that we’re really focused on is continuity and understanding that it is important to run these types of programs, events, and initiatives, but it is even more impactful if they are able to continue far into the future,” Palaniappan said.

The pair’s recent measures have largely focused on inclusion, a major pillar of the platform they ran on. Beyond these events, Palaniappan and Huesa’s legislation to establish a Social Inclusion Grant passed the council Sunday. Each week, the grant will give up to $750 to one individual and one student group looking to host an open social event on campus. The program is set to run for 10 weeks this semester.

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The team also worked this summer to establish a $15,000 Public Service Travel Grant with the Office of Career Services to help students who cannot afford to travel to internship or job interviews at public service-related organizations.

Palaniappan also said that she and Huesa realized some of their campaign platform ideas were unfeasible once entering office. For example, they proposed a monthly concert series during their campaign to create more social spaces for students, but logistical issues hindered the idea's implementation.

“There will be initiatives that you thought were going to very well be possible, and it’s okay that not everything is going to always pan out as expected,” Palaniappan said.

Huesa said that the UC’s rules committee has hindered their ability to perform their duties as president and vice president.

In April, the committee created a separate group to interpret the UC’s constitution. The new group voted to strip the president and vice president of their voting rights and ability to sponsor legislation.

Enough representatives changed their votes the week following the meeting, however, to nullify the group’s establishment, leaving the president’s and vice president’s powers in the council uncertain.

“It made the barebones execution of a lot of our platform items — or also just items that the entire UC was trying to pass last semester that had the ultimate objective of improving student life — exceedingly difficult,” Huesa said.

UC Secretary Cade S. Palmer ’20, a member of the rules committee and a former Crimson Sports Chair, rejected Huesa’s characterization of the committee’s work.

“The Rules Committee did not disenfranchise the executive, but has simply attempted to resolve the constitutional crisis,” he wrote in an emailed statement. “The effort, beset on all sides by individual members of the council, has thus far failed.”

Palaniappan and Huesa will leave office at the end of the semester after the UC presidential election in November.

The UC will also hold elections in the coming weeks as all UC representatives – except for juniors and seniors who serve as committee chairs, treasurer, or secretary – must run for re-election. Voting will take place between Sept. 17 and 19.

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

— Staff writer Laura C. Espinoza can be reached at laura.espinoza@thecrimson.com.

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