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In First Meeting In Over A Month, Undergraduate Council Votes To Conduct Student Experience Survey

The Isaacson Room in the Smith Campus Center, where the Undergraduate Council held its meetings before students left campus, sits empty. The UC held a general meeting over Zoom on Sunday.
The Isaacson Room in the Smith Campus Center, where the Undergraduate Council held its meetings before students left campus, sits empty. The UC held a general meeting over Zoom on Sunday. By Aiyana G. White
By Sharon Xu, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard’s Undergraduate Council voted to publicize a student experience survey that will guide its future advocacy efforts during a general meeting held over Zoom on Sunday, its first in over a month.

Council secretary Nicholas J. Brennan ’23 sent out the anonymous survey in an email to students Monday. It includes questions about students’ virtual learning experience, health, wellbeing, and engagement with student life.

According to the email, the Council will be using the results of the survey to ensure its advocacy efforts reflect the views of the student body about grading policies and options for the fall semester.

In a message to Harvard affiliates that came just hours later, University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 wrote Harvard would be open, either online or in person, for fall 2020, ruling out a postponement of the upcoming semester. Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay later wrote in an email to faculty and staff that the FAS would reach a decision on its fall term’s format no later than July.

UC President and Vice President James A. Mathew ’21 and Ifeoma “Ify” E. White-Thorpe ’21 sent another email to undergraduates on Tuesday to again encourage students to complete the survey. In the email, Mathew and White-Thorpe wrote that the survey received 774 responses after the first day.

The Council designed the survey, which is designed to take 20 minutes to complete, in consultation with administrators from the Dean of Students Office, Office of Undergraduate Education, First-Year Experience Office, Harvard University Health Services, and Counseling and Mental Health Services.

Leverett House representative Jenny Y. Gan ’22, who helped create the survey, wrote in an email to The Crimson that the UC Student Experience Survey’s goals have not changed much in light of Garber’s announcement.

“I was not, and to the best of my knowledge neither were fellow representatives, aware of Provost Garber’s email announcement ahead of time, despite communicating with a number of administrators about the survey during its development,” Gan wrote. “Regardless, the survey’s primary intention is to gain a better understanding of how this transition has influenced the academic experience, extracurricular engagement, and health and wellbeing of students.”

She added that she and other Council members still hope to use the survey’s results to make recommendations to administrators about "where they should focus their time and resources" if the fall semester is virtual.

The Council also debuted a new logo and discussed revamping its website at Sunday’s meeting. The UC website has not yet been updated to reflect the activities of the current Council, including the information about current Council representatives and the current Council president and vice president.

Additionally, Mathew and White-Thorpe announced at the meeting intentions for the Council to become active in Boston Intercollegiate Government. Boston University Student Government President Hafzat Akanni was a special guest at the meeting, where she spoke about her experiences with Boston Intercollegiate Government.

The Council also passed legislation updating its policies regarding funding procedures and guidelines for student organizations. Under the updated policy, registered social organizations are not eligible to obtain grants from the Council. The updated policy also requires club events funded by the Council’s Finance Committee grants to be eligible for the Student Events Fund, which subsidizes ticket costs to students on significant financial aid.

For recognized student organizations, the updated policy states the UC will consider an organization’s procedure for admitting new members to determine if that organization is eligible to receive funding.

The Council also passed legislation that allows it to collect budget information from recognized social organizations. According to the legislation, the Council will use the budget information to help it allocate funding.

Finance Committee chair and Eliot House representative Rukmini “Mini” Ganesh ’22 addressed concerns that organizations may underreport their finances.

“We’re going to pick a small selection randomly and audit them each year,” Ganesh said.

At Sunday’s meeting, the Council also passed legislation that would modify the constitution of the Council to allow meetings to be held during summer vacation with the approval of a majority of the Council. Previously, the constitution of the Council stated the Council would not meet during vacations or exam period. Kirkland House representative Carter H. Nakamoto ’21 proposed the legislation.

“The odds are pretty good that we are going to have to drastically restructure what the Council is going to look like — whether or not we’re back on campus for the fall — in order to take into account what has happened and the impacts it’s had on people,” Nakamoto said.

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

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