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Coalition for a Diverse Harvard Endorses Overseers, HAA Candidates Ahead of Election

The Coalition for a Diverse Harvard, an alumni group focused on increasing diversity at the University, has endorsed five candidates for the Board of Overseers and six candidates vying to be Harvard Alumni Association Elected Directors.
The Coalition for a Diverse Harvard, an alumni group focused on increasing diversity at the University, has endorsed five candidates for the Board of Overseers and six candidates vying to be Harvard Alumni Association Elected Directors. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Michelle G. Kurilla and Ruoqi Zhang, Crimson Staff Writers

Along with 11 other alumni groups, the Coalition for a Diverse Harvard — an alumni group centered on increasing diversity at the University — endorsed five candidates for this year’s Board of Overseers election and six candidates for an elected director position on the board of the Harvard Alumni Association.

The Board of Overseers — the University’s second-highest governing body — is responsible for providing input on decisions regarding the direction of the University, counseling Harvard’s top administrators, and approving certain actions by the Harvard Corporation, the University’s highest governing body. Board members serve six-year terms.

The Coalition's chosen Board of Overseers candidates include Tracy K. Smith ’94, Diego A. Rodriguez, Raphael W. Bostic ’87, Dororthy “Thea” L. Sebastian ’08, and David H. Eun ’89. Rodriguez and Eun are members of the Coalition.

The Coalition was joined by 11 other alumni groups in endorsing this slate of candidates, including First Generation Harvard Alumni, the Harvard Arab Alumni Association, the Harvard Asian American Alumni Alliance, the Harvard Black Alumni Society, the Harvard Gender & Sexuality Caucus, the Harvard Latino Alumni Alliance, Harvard Progressive Jewish Alumni, the Harvard South Asian Alumni Alliance, Harvard Tamil Sangam Alumni, Harvard Women of Color, and Native American Alumni of Harvard University.

Michael G. Williams ’81, a board member of the Coalition, said he was grateful for the support of other alumni groups.

“I do want to give a shout out and express our gratitude with the fact that, for the first time, we had so many organizations involved with Harvard who are also co-endorsing with us,” Williams said. “We at Diverse Harvard think that it’s a very strong statement that the organizations agree with our judgment that this set of endorsed candidates are really the best choices for Harvard's future.”

The Coalition formed in 2016 in response to an alumni group’s ticket for the Board of Overseers. Former presidential candidate and environmental activist Ralph Nader lead the alumni group, named “Free Harvard, Fair Harvard,” which ran on a controversial platform of eliminating tuition and questioning affirmative action in Harvard’s admissions process.

The Coalition’s candidate review committee reached its endorsement decision through evaluating a diversity questionnaire, researching candidates’ backgrounds, and interviewing the 13 candidates for the Board of Overseers, according to Williams.

Williams said ethnic studies at Harvard is a key issue for the organization, and candidates’ positions on the subject were “definitely an important consideration” as the alumni advocacy group reviewed their candidates.

In this year’s race for the Board of Overseers, Harvard Forward — an alumni organization advocating for the University to divest from the fossil fuel industry — campaigned to put several candidates’ names on the ballot. Sebastian, one of the Coalition’s endorsed Overseers candidates, is a part of the slate of candidates Harvard Forward put forth last fall.

The Coalition also endorsed six of the nine candidates for the HAA directorship, including Kelsey T. Leonard ’10, Joyce Y. Zhang ’09, Mallika J. Marshall ’92, Vanessa M. Zoltan, Santiago Creuheras, and Michael D. Lewis ’93. Zhang, Marshall, Zoltan, Creuheras, and Lewis are members of the Coalition.

This year’s elections are scheduled to take place from April 1 to May 19. Harvard alumni are eligible to vote online or by traditional paper ballot or online, except those in University instruction and governance positions as well as members of the Harvard Corporation.

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

—Staff writer Ruoqi Zhang can be reached at ruoqi.zhang@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @RuoqiZhang3.

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