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Harvard Forward, Fresh Off of Board of Overseers Wins, Sets Sights on 2021 With New Slate of Candidates

Harvard Forward organizers walk through campus in March 2020.
Harvard Forward organizers walk through campus in March 2020. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Ellen M. Burstein and Michelle G. Kurilla, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard Forward, a student and alumni group working to end climate change and increase recent alumni representation within Harvard’s governance boards, announced the launch of their 2021 campaign in an email to supporters Tuesday.

Their 2021 slate includes three candidates: Yvette Efevbera, a global health specialist and a graduate of the Harvard School of Public Health; Megan Red Shirt-Shaw, an education activist and graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and Natalie Unterstell, a climate change policy expert and graduate of Harvard Kennedy School.

A Candidate Selection Committee composed of students, faculty and staff chose the three new candidates.

“Our 2021 candidates were chosen by a Candidate Selection Committee that included not only Harvard alumni but also students, faculty, and former staff members – groups that are just as much part of the Harvard community but are ineligible to participate in the election,” their website reads.

Harvard Forward launched in October 2019 with a slate of five candidates. Since the start of their inaugural campaign, the group has kept up an active social media presence.

Three of the five candidates they put forward in the 2020 Board of Overseers election — Margaret “Midge” Purce ’17, Jayson U. Toweh, and Dorothy “Thea” L. Sebastian ’08 — were elected to serve on the Board.

Divestment activists who had spent years working to make their case with Harvard’s administration praised the election results. Changes that came after the election, however, have made it more difficult for petition candidates to win seats on the Board of Overseers.

Nearly three weeks after the results, Senior Fellow of the Harvard Corporation William F. Lee ’72 and R. Martin Chávez ’85, the president of the Board of Overseers, announced that no more than six petition candidates may be elected as Overseers at any given time.

The report was completed on July 31 — ahead of the election results — but Strasburger and Crenier alleged that the change in policy was “in response” to their victory at the time and wrote that they were “alarmed” by the policy change.

The Board of Overseers is made up of 30 members elected in slates of five to serve six-year terms. Under the new rules, a maximum of three members who are nominated by petition may be elected to serve in the next five years. The other 24 members must be elected to the board after receiving a nomination from the Harvard Alumni Association’s Nominating Committee.

This year, the petition process is entirely online. Last year, Harvard Forward organizers worked to attain the necessary signatures to put their candidates on the ballot.

University Spokesperson Christopher A. Hennessy confirmed in an email to The Crimson that while the petition process is entirely online, voting, which has not yet kicked off, will be available online or by paper ballot.

—Staff writer Ellen M. Burstein can be reached at ellen.burstein@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @ellenburstein.

—Staff writer Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at michelle.kurilla@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.

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