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‘One More Step Forward’: Harvard Forward Candidates Qualify for Board of Overseers Election Ballot

Harvard Forward celebrates successfully nominating five petition candidates for the Board of Overseers ballot in February 2020. The organization announced Monday that it had successfully nominated all three of its candidates this year.
Harvard Forward celebrates successfully nominating five petition candidates for the Board of Overseers ballot in February 2020. The organization announced Monday that it had successfully nominated all three of its candidates this year. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Kelsey J. Griffin and Kevin A. Simauchi, Crimson Staff Writers

For the second year in a row, a slate of candidates backed by Harvard Forward — a student and alumni organization working to call attention to climate action and racial justice issues within the University’s governance boards — will appear on the election ballot for the Board of Overseers, Harvard Forward announced Monday.

The candidates nominated by petition for the Board of Overseers — the University’s second-highest governing body — include global health and gender specialist Yvette O. Efevbera, Indigenous activist Megan H. Red Shirt-Shaw, and Brazilian climate policy expert Natalie Unterstell.

In order to secure spots on the election ballot as petition candidates, the three needed to garner at least 2,987 signatures — one percent of eligible voters — by Feb. 3. They will now contend with the eight candidates put forward by Harvard Alumni Association’s Nominating Committee in the Board election, which will take place from April 1 to May 18.

“By running for the board, we hope to inspire Harvard alumni to vote for change and join the fight for climate and racial justice,” Unterstell said in a press release.

According to Harvard Forward, its petition campaign succeeded despite a “complicated” online nominating process, which it said prevented “hundreds” who wanted to support the candidates from signing a petition.

University spokesperson Christopher M. Hennessy declined to comment Monday morning.

Efevbera, Red Shirt-Shaw, and Unterstell, who all received Harvard degrees within the last five years, intend to promote Harvard Forward’s platform of committing the University to divestment from fossil fuels and the prison industry, racial justice, and greater representation among younger alumni.

“I care deeply about this university and the current and future leaders it develops,” Efevbera said in the release. “That’s why I'm thankful to have the support of thousands of alumni who know how important it is to have bold and inclusive leadership to tackle the biggest challenges of our time, like racial justice and climate action.”

Harvard Forward also successfully nominated five petition candidates for the Board via petition last year. Three of those candidates — Margaret “Midge” Purce ’17, Jayson U. Toweh, and Dorothy “Thea” L. Sebastian ’08 — were elected to the Board in August.

With a September 2020 change in the Board’s policies, the number of members nominated by petition that can serve on the governing board at any given time was reduced to six of the 30 total seats at any given time. If Efevbera, Red Shirt-Shaw, and Unterstell are all elected in May, petition candidates will not be able to run for the Board of Overseers until 2026.

“As one of the founding institutions of higher education in the country, Harvard can continue to lead the way, but only if it’s willing to change and support new leadership,” Red Shirt-Shaw said in the release. “Each nomination we received is one more step forward, and we’re grateful to all the alumni who placed their trust in us.”

—Staff writer Kelsey J. Griffin can be reached at kelsey.griffin@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @kelseyjgriffin.

—Staff writer Kevin A. Simauchi can be reached at kevin.simauchi@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @Simauchi.

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