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Harvard Undergraduate Council Votes to Expand Caucus System Power

The Harvard Undergraduate Council holds meetings in the Isaacson Room in the Smith Campus Center.
The Harvard Undergraduate Council holds meetings in the Isaacson Room in the Smith Campus Center. By Aiyana G. White
By Sharon Xu, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard’s Undergraduate Council unanimously approved legislation expanding the reach and power of the body’s caucus system, which aims to strengthen the UC’s connections with affinity groups on campus.

Previously, caucuses were limited to Council members and could endorse — but not propose — legislation. The newly passed legislation opens caucus membership to all Harvard undergraduates. Caucuses can now propose legislation regarding event publicity or UC issue statements as well.

UC president James A. Mathew ’21 and vice president Ifeoma “Ify” E. White-Thorpe ’21 campaigned for UC leadership in part on expanding the caucus system to more of the student body.

The UC has so far established Black, Latinx, Asian-American, and First-Generation Low-Income Caucuses.

Dudley Community representative Katherine E. Wang ’20, a former Crimson design editor, said the legislation would increase the power of the Council’s caucuses.

“We really want to give caucuses the ability to actually do stuff,” she said.

At Sunday’s meeting, the UC also voted to allocate $300 to a “Meet the First-Generation Low-Income Caucus Event,” a week after it voted to fund a similar event devoted to the Black Caucus.

The Council also voted to help fund Datamatch, a free matchmaking service run by Harvard students. The nearly $3,200 allocation from its discretionary “Burst Fund” continues the Council’s long-standing support for Datamatch.

Kirkland House representative Carter H. Nakamoto ’21 voted against the legislation, arguing that Datamatch could find other sponsors and that other organizations need the UC’s money more urgently.

Nakamoto also criticized what he called Datamatch’s lack of inclusivity. In Jan. 2018, after facing criticism from UC members, the Datamatch team announced they would add a non-binary gender option to the survey.

“I would posit that the way that Datamatch handles issues around non-traditional gender identities is suboptimal and that this is effectively subsidizing these suboptimal recognition of non-binary gender identities,” Nakamoto said.

Adams House representative Alexa C. Jordan ’22 said she personally enjoyed her experiences using Datamatch and called it “a great way to meet people.”

“Datamatch is something so exciting that happens every year for Harvard College students,” Jordan said. “I think one of the responsibilities of the Harvard Undergraduate Council is to provide funds that help to bring the campus closer together.”

The UC also unanimously voted to publicize an Office of Sexual Assault Prevention & Response healing group using a Council mailing list. Representatives debated the merits of publicizing a university initiative through UC channels.

Jordan described the OSAPR healing group as “essential,” but raised questions about whether publicizing it would set a precedent.

“I just want to make sure that when we send out emails, it’s with intention,” Jordan said. “I would love to show, maybe through the wording of the email, to convey how much we care about it to put our name behind it — not saying that we are the ones who are starting this, but we support it.”

—Staff writer Sharon Xu can be reached at sharon.xu@thecrimson.com.

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CollegeUndergraduate CouncilStudent Life