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Editorials

A Better Student Government Is on the Board

The Harvard Undergraduate Association meets in the Riverview Commons room on the 10th floor of the Smith Campus Center.
The Harvard Undergraduate Association meets in the Riverview Commons room on the 10th floor of the Smith Campus Center. By Selorna A. Ackuayi
By The Crimson Editorial Board
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.

Last week gave us a vote of minimal confidence in the Harvard Undergraduate Association, with a meager 6.4 percent of the student body deigning to even click through a ballot in the fall referendum.

In the tiny tally, students passed two constitutional amendments to extend funding request deadlines and delay HUA elections.

These amendments are trivial at best. Ideally, our student government would do more than shuffle its own dates around a calendar. Judging from the measly voter turnout, the rest of the student body seems to agree.

That’s not to say that the HUA is wholly useless. We appreciate the HUA’s past advocacy in connecting students to affordable summer storage, textbook stipends, and a free professional clothing closet. Hopefully, subsidized MBTA passes — an idea that the referendum collected student opinions on — are next on the agenda.

But these initiatives are not government.

The HUA remains the purse of Student Activity Fees and an occasional patron of student life. However, it does not meaningfully represent the interests of our vast, diverse student body to the administration.

A vision for such substantive student government might — ironically — have been hidden in the HUA’s referendum survey. As they picked their favorite name for an unofficial Harvard turkey mascot, participants were also asked about undergraduate participation on the Board of Overseers.

As far off as this currently sounds, this is a refreshingly novel idea with great potential. As it stands, the Board of Overseers, despite being Harvard’s second-highest governing body, is an abstruse concept for most students. Undergraduate representation on this body would position champions for student voices and campus issues close to these seats of University decision-making.

Such proximity would enable true student-driven government. Beyond polling the student body for their support of MBTA subsidies, student advocates on the Board of Overseers could directly lobby the administration to land such concessions.

If the HUA aims to actually represent the student body, it needs to figure out how to raise response rates on its referenda to a number of voters that isn’t comparable to the word count of a staff editorial. Otherwise, undergraduates have reason to associate with a higher governing body — perhaps the second highest at this school.

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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