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The newly elected president and vice president of Harvard’s Undergraduate Council laid out how they plan to implement aspects of their campaign platform in an interview Monday.
UC Treasurer Noah A. Harris ’22 and Leverett House representative Jenny Y. Gan ’22 won the election on Nov. 13 after a week-long campaign. Harris is the first Black man to be elected Council president by the College student body.
Harris and Gan campaigned on a three-pronged approach, targeting diversity and inclusion, student life, and health and wellness.
During the campaign, they pledged to meet with key members of the administration — specifically, University President Lawrence S. Bacow and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana — at least once a month to address student concerns.
In the Monday interview, Gan said this would be a priority for her and Harris while in office, explaining that while students are free to send emails to administrators’ secretaries, those emails “might just slip through the cracks.”
“Our goal really is to ensure that everyone who wants or has something or has a concern that they want to be brought up to admin has the chance to do so,” Gan said.
Administrators are “actively planning” what the spring semester will look like as the coronavirus pandemic rages on, and are slated to announce plans in early December. Harris said that if he and Gan were asked to discuss spring planning with administration, they would advocate to ensure “the most students possible can get the resources they need.”
He added that their advocacy would center around the feedback the Council received through its fall planning survey, which gave recommendations for the College’s spring plans.
“I have confirmed that the right members of the administration have seen the report,” Harris said.
Harris and Gan both expressed their preference for more flexible academic requirements for the spring, such as an opt-in pass-fail grading system and extensions to the deadlines for changing grading basis to pass-fail and adding or dropping courses. They also stressed that virtual shopping week — the first week of classes in which students “shop” for different courses before choosing to enroll — should be improved.
This spring, the College shifted to an emergency satisfactory-unsatisfactory grading system in response to the sudden removal of students from campus and the switch to an online format.
The College kept a letter grade system for the student body this semester but did extend the deadline to switch a class to a pass-fail grading basis.
Harris said he and Gan are “just trying to be sure that we can remove a lot of the stress and a lot of the anxiety around academics.”
With regards to diversity and inclusion, the pair touted the Advocacy Fund, which would be established by the Council to aid activism efforts by College students.
“I don’t see too many obstacles to implementing [the Advocacy Fund] pretty quickly,” Harris said.
Harris and Gan also promised to advocate for a multicultural center, a fight that students have waged with administrators for half a century. In the short term, Harris said, the pair would be advocating for spaces in campus buildings to be used for multicultural events once public health and safety guidelines deem it safe.
With health and wellness, Gan said that while the pandemic has posed new challenges to the Council’s usual approach to health initiatives, she and Harris were “trying to think of creative things.”
Harris and Gan will have their inauguration in December.
—Staff writer Hannah J. Martinez can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @martinezhannahj.
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