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Editorials

Crisis Control at the HUA

By The Crimson Editorial Board

Quelle surprise. A haphazard, shockingly disorganized new constitution has had haphazard, shockingly disorganized results. Club funding will continue only because of the unusual efforts of a handful of students, and the Undergraduate Council’s summer storage program may remain underfunded. We wish that our student leaders cared more about their most basic responsibility to distribute funding, and we reluctantly call for some adults in the room to help them do so.

As we said ahead of the student body referendum, the Harvard Undergraduate Association was not a sufficiently thought-out replacement for the flawed organization it has superseded. Perhaps the single most predictable requirement for the HUA was always going to be providing for the transition period, and its founding document was astonishingly light on this issue. We are grateful for the student leaders who stepped up to keep the lights on despite this poor planning. There are, it seems, exceptions to the general cultural problems of student government.

But those people, working overtime to keep the student ship of state afloat, are few and far between. Showboating and self-aggrandizement are all too common. The resulting culture of dysfunctionality was apparent in the UC, but seems not to have gone far. A broadly chaotic transition period has shown us just how far the HUA has to go to improve over its predecessor.

This transitional neglect is emblematic of a brand of student government that burnishes LinkedIn profiles better than it takes care of basic responsibilities. Student government at Harvard suffers from an egotism that prioritizes self-important political machinations over the sometimes boring but always necessary work which we elect our peers to do.

We are left ever more confident that any effective student government at Harvard will require a drastic cultural shift. We need structures that disincentivize attention-seeking and attract students who are willing to focus on the unglamorous work of good governance. To take just one example, incorporations of House Committees would be a step in the right direction. Genuine caretakers of the Houses and their communities, House Committees provide a model of student governance sans opportunism and theatrics.

In a more radical departure, the HUA’s transition period ought to be more closely supervised by administrators. Frankly, the lack of transition guidance addressed to critical issues like summer storage represents a serious dereliction. The unusually student-driven distribution of funds at Harvard must be justified by unusually responsible students. To mitigate the fallout of this transition, some small increase in adult supervision seems an acceptable concession.

For now, it’s time to put out fires. It seems, through the unusual efforts of a handful of students, that this may well be achieved. Next, the longer task of fixing student government at Harvard begins. Too often at our school, “anyone can do that” means “nobody does.” At a school where everyone wants to be president, we will have to train some functionaries.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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