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Acrimony and Inefficiency Mar Inaugural UC Meeting Under Cheng and de Kanter

The Undergraduate Council inaugurated Michael Y. Cheng '22 as its new president Sunday.
The Undergraduate Council inaugurated Michael Y. Cheng '22 as its new president Sunday. By Lucas J. Walsh
By Lucas J. Walsh, Crimson Staff Writer

Michael Y. Cheng ’22 and Emmett E. de Kanter ’24 were inaugurated as president and vice president of the Undergraduate Council Sunday during an acrimonious meeting that was derailed by accusations of bullying and intimidation leveled at the new president.

The meeting — which consisted of lengthy speeches by outgoing committee chairs, an inauguration ceremony, an incomplete election for new executives, and voting on legislation — dragged on for upward of three hours. Roughly half of the body’s members left the meeting before it concluded, and the UC had to schedule an emergency meeting to get through remaining action items.

Early in the meeting, Oak Yard Representative Laila A. Nasher ’25 accused Cheng of exploiting her identity as a first-generation, low-income student to consolidate power.

Nasher said Cheng previously asked her to meet on proposals for his cabinet, which she applied to be part of, but the meeting went much longer than expected as it turned into a discussion of their "shared frustrations as FGLI students.” She alleged Cheng’s actual intention for calling the meeting was to secure her opposition to a controversial proposed constitutional amendment that the outgoing UC leadership introduced to limit sweeping changes to its constitution.

In his campaign, Cheng promised to rewrite the UC constitution.

Nasher alleged that Cheng said during their conversation that her vote in favor of the proposed amendment disqualified her from working in his cabinet.

“Can you commit that you will not manipulate and harass other students on this council, other students in this school?” Nasher asked Cheng during Sunday’s meeting. “Because I am sick and tired of my identity as an FGLI student, as a woman of color, being used to further political aims.”

Cheng apologized to Nasher during his inaugural speech.

“These allegations are false and I really apologize if my words have given them the appearance that they are true,” Cheng said in his speech. “I really apologize if it seems like I’m trying to harass and intimidate people. That is not my intention and intimidation is never acceptable.”

Cheng also hit a note of unity during his speech.

“We’ve got to change systems big and small. Local system change is still system change and it’s the system change that we’d like to achieve in the coming weeks together,” he said. “We need to get a student government that we deserve, one where we’re not in crazy constitutional fights and mudslinging all the time.”

Dennis W.H. Kwok, a founding member of the Hong Kong Civic Party who was active in the 2019 protests against the Chinese government, also gave a speech at the inauguration.

Following the ceremony, the council proceeded to elect a new secretary and treasurer. After hearing the secretary candidates’ speeches and holding a vote by secret ballot, the council moved to postpone the election after realizing there were not enough voters to certify the election under the constitution’s bylaws.

To conclude the meeting, the council passed two pieces of legislation, which allocated funds to extracurricular groups and clarified language in the advocacy fund program, respectively. Due to time constraints, the UC postponed debate on the other 10 acts on the meeting’s agenda, to be considered during a forthcoming emergency meeting.

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

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