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Two Official Tickets — and a Cat — Run for Undergraduate Council Presidency

The Undergraduate Council used to meet in the Smith Campus Center.
The Undergraduate Council used to meet in the Smith Campus Center. By Caleb D. Schwartz
By Hannah J. Martinez, Crimson Staff Writer

Two tickets consisting of two members of Harvard’s Undergraduate Council each — and, unofficially, a cat — are running to lead the UC this year.

UC Finance Committee Chair and Eliot representative Rukmini “Mini” Ganesh ’22 is running for president alongside UC Secretary and Winthrop representative Nicholas J. Brennan ’23; UC Treasurer and Dunster representative Noah A. Harris ’22 is also running for the presidency with Leverett representative Jenny Y. Gan ’22 as vice president.

Campaigning in the race officially began on Wednesday at midnight, but both official tickets held off on sending campaign emails for different reasons.

Harris and Gan were barred from campaigning until Friday because the UC Elections Commission determined they campaigned before the election period began.

Gan said they had asked friends to help them with their campaign, which they believed was normal practice in UC elections.

“That happened on campaigns going back three years at least,” Harris said. “We thought we were in the clear.”

Brennan said his and Ganesh’s ticket held off on sending emails Wednesday due to the contentious 2020 national election, which has left many students frazzled.

“We decided to take a pause for the sake of students’ mental health,” Brennan said.

Ganesh and Brennan said their platform focuses on addressing concerns that the student body has raised before, such as pushing the University to divest its endowment from fossil fuels and private prisons, as well as develop an ethnic studies concentration.

“There’s widespread support for Ethnic Studies, the Council’s not doing anything,” Ganesh said. “We have pathways to get [it] done.”

She added that the UC leadership must prioritize pushing the University to divest, “otherwise it’s not going to get done.”

Student wellness and police reform would also be a priority for Ganesh and Brennan if they were elected. Ganesh said the “wellness days” instituted by the College in lieu of a spring break for the spring term are “kind of a joke.”

“The wellness days need to have an assignment moratorium — a buffer of 48 hours after that day where nothing is due,” Ganesh said. “Otherwise it’s not a wellness day.”

Ganesh and Brennan are the only inter-class ticket on the ballot, and Ganesh said having the experience of both a junior and a sophomore is a strength.

“It’s impossible for me as a junior to kind of understand what it’s like for sophomores and first-years,” Ganesh said. “If two juniors run and win, you’re going to have two seniors who are negotiating about next academic year with administration. That’s not an accurate representation of the student body.”

Their opponents, Harris and Gan, are running to create “a Harvard that we can all be proud of, regardless of who we are or what our background is,” Harris said.

They have divided their platform into three categories: diversity and inclusion, student life, and health and wellness.

“Our main goal here is to hold Harvard accountable for its commitment to anti-racism and inclusion,” Gan said of their diversity and inclusion category.

Harris added that they plan to eventually “advocate and start working towards” developing a multicultural center for Harvard students, a longtime demand of student activists.

In regards to student life, Gan said she wanted to use a partnership with Lyft that the Council is piloting this year to “supplement intercampus travel” once students return to campus. Gan also pledged to subsidize internet services by partnering with an outside provider.

To improve Harvard’s mental health resources, Gan said she and Harris are pushing to expand Crimson Clear — the daily physical health attestation required of on-campus students during the COVID-19 pandemic — to include a mental health check-in. She added that they would expand on a spring semester pilot program with the meditation app Headspace, which provided 1,000 students with a free year-long subscription.

Meanwhile, Ana M. Mundaca ’22 has entered her cat Mr. Muffin into the race as a write-in candidate with human running mate Troy B. Appel ’22; Mundaca will act as a “surrogate” for Mr. Muffin, she said. The cat has two policy plans, Mundaca said.

“One, get rid of the Student Activities Fee,” she said. “Two, all student fees that are paid will be transferred to cat shelters and animal shelters in Boston.”

Mundaca said any remaining money would go towards funding free ahi tuna in the College’s dining halls.

Both of the official tickets are dealing with the struggles of campaigning virtually while most students remain off-campus due to the pandemic.

“It’s not like an ideal situation but we’re really trying our best to make the most out of it,” Harris said.

Brennan said he and Ganesh plan to focus on individual contacts and one-on-one outreach to student organizations.

While both official tickets said they remain positive about their chances of victory, Mundaca said Mr. Muffin was simply happy to be in the running.

“You know that meme about Plankton from Spongebob where he’s like, ‘I never thought I’d get this far’?” Mundaca said. “That’s kind of where I’m at with Mr. Muffin.”

—Staff writer Hannah J. Martinez can be contacted at hannah.martinez@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @martinezhannahj.

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