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UC Reconvenes, Passes Legislation to Help Students Enforce Wellness Days

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Harvard's Undergraduate Council met in the Isaacson Room of the Smith Campus Center.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Harvard's Undergraduate Council met in the Isaacson Room of the Smith Campus Center. By Aiyana G. White
By Mayesha R. Soshi and Lucas J. Walsh, Crimson Staff Writers

The Undergraduate Council passed legislation Sunday to promote student “self-advocacy” regarding courses’ adherence to wellness days in its first meeting following winter recess.

The legislation, which passed unanimously, publicizes a guide entitled “Spring ‘21: Navigating Virtual Academics” that offers recommendations for how students can ensure course instructors observe wellness days — five days dispersed throughout the 2021 spring semester when classes will not convene on Zoom. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences implemented the new policy in lieu of spring break to reduce travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

The legislation was sponsored by a number of UC representatives, including President Noah A. Harris ’22 and Vice President Jenny Y. Gan ’22.

The UC drafted the guide in response to the results of a council-sponsored survey and accompanying town hall, which found students felt “overwhelmingly concerned” about FAS’s replacement of spring break with wellness days.

The guide outlines several steps students should take in the event that course instructors do not respect wellness days, which are meant to be “restorative,” per the College website. The guide, which provides template emails, recommends that students contact course staff, followed by the director of undergraduate studies for the course’s associated department and their resident dean with concerns.

“There are actionable emails included within the guide which proves to be really helpful,” Cabot House Representative Pallas Chou ’23, who sponsored the legislation, said.

The Office of Undergraduate Education and the Academic Resource Center suggested the UC draft such a guide to help alleviate student concerns. Dean of Undergraduate Education Amanda J. Claybaugh and Academic Resource Center Director Donna Mumme reviewed the guide’s language prior to its publication, according to the agenda set by the UC for the meeting.

“We really want to make sure that every student has the tools that they need in order to be able to advocate for themselves,” Adams House Representative Esther J. Xiang ’23, another sponsor of the legislation, said.

During Sunday’s meeting, the council also passed legislation to streamline committee oversight.

The Council convened for a brief meeting to update members on ongoing efforts, including the disbursement of the Wintersession and Tech Insecurity funds and notifications about the upcoming midterm elections.

Sponsored by UC Secretary Secretary Nicholas J. Brennan ’23 and Ivy Yard Representative Arjun A. Akwei ’24, the amendment creates opportunities for collaboration between committees and also sets in motion a voting process for the Council to determine which committees have primary jurisdiction over a piece of legislation.

Though committees had previously worked together, Brennan said the Council did not have a seamless process to work on legislation that fell under the purview of multiple committees, leading to a “bureaucratic mess.”

“I think that this is something that was a long time running,” Brennan said after the meeting.

“This is part of a larger movement on the Council to make us a more receptive and efficient organization,” he added.

The legislation passed with a unanimous vote of the 23 representatives in attendance.

—Staff writer Mayesha R. Soshi can be reached at mayesha.soshi@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Lucas J. Walsh can be reached at lucas.walsh@thecrimson.com.

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Tags
Undergraduate CouncilStudent GroupsStudent LifeSpring Break