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The Harvard Undergraduate Association’s annual fall referendum, which opened for voting on Monday, proposes two constitutional amendments around funding requests and extending officers’ terms.
Undergraduates can vote until midnight on Friday, with an amendment requiring approval from at least two-thirds of the voters to pass. One proposed amendment would push back the transition between incoming and outgoing HUA officers and presidents — drawing criticism from some HUA Academic Team members, who described the amendment as “illegitimate.”
Currently, HUA elections occur in mid-February, and positions switch at the beginning of March. If the election timing amendment passes, the transition between officers would shift to mid-April — “exactly two weeks after Spring Break ends,” according to the referendum question.
HUA Co-President John S. Cooke ’25 said the current schedule makes it difficult for officers to plan their terms around the calendar year when elections occur in February.
According to Cooke, the proposed schedule change would provide outgoing Officers with more time to train their successors to “make sure that everything stays consistent throughout the year, so that the new team can get started in the next year.”
HUA Co-President Shikoh Misu Hirabayashi ’24 said having newly-elected officers assume their positions in the middle of the spring semester can cause funding delays and inconsistencies, particularly for Finance Team procedures.
But Academic Team Officer Peter E. Chon ’26 and Academic Project Leader Eunice S. Chon ’26 criticized the amendment as an “abuse of power” in a co-authored statement posted on Instagram Wednesday.
“The second question never passed a unanimous vote among the officers. Thus, the second referendum is illegitimate according to the HUA’s own governing documents,” the post reads.
According to Cooke, the process of approving the amendment’s inclusion in the referendum fully adhered to Dean of Students Office and HUA standards.
“In the constitution, a referendum process must receive a unanimous vote from the executive team to begin,” Cooke said in an interview. “The referendum process in question here is the process of changing the term timeline, and when it came down to that bare bones vote, we had the complete 11-0 support. The exact wording is developed with our input, but final word on that goes to the DSO.”
In an interview with The Crimson Thursday, Peter Chon alleged that the HUA’s Executive Committee had voted unanimously for a different version of the referendum question, which included a follow-up on whether the timeline shift would go into effect this spring or during the following year.
Chon said he believes the HUA should have leveraged its constitution’s “nebulous” wording about the date of the referendum to spend more time discussing final DSO-approved wording with officers and ensure unanimous consent before releasing the referendum.
According to the body’s constitution, a referendum can occur either during annual elections in the spring or in the middle of the fall semester.
The Instagram statement claimed that because the amendment was proposed to take effect during the current term, “the obvious driver of this amendment is officers wanting to stay in their positions longer.”
“The goal is absolutely not to extend our terms artificially,” Cooke said. “The goal is to complete a change that the HUA has been trying to do since its founding, and complete a change that the previous administration attempted.”
The other amendment proposes shifting the due date for student organizations to submit semesterly funding requests to 10-14 days after the start of classes. Under the HUA’s current constitution, requests are due one month before the semester begins.
“August as a due date is obviously super undoable for students, because most students aren’t even on campus in August, let alone know the organized plans for their student organization,” Cooke said.
In practice, during the funding application cycles this semester and last year, the HUA had extended deadlines to after what was dictated by the HUA’s constitution. According to Cooke, the amendment would be a way to “make sure we're doing our due diligence with our constitution” and prevent the HUA from having to “artificially move the deadline.”
The referendum voting form also collected data on student MBTA usage, names for Harvard’s unofficial turkey mascot, and interest in student representation on the Board of Overseers — the University’s second-highest governing body.
One question asks students whether they think Harvard should include student positions on its Board of Overseers, which is composed entirely of alumni elected each spring by Harvard degree-holders.
“We’re advocating for students to be placed on the Board of Overseers and similar University-wide committees,” Cooke said. “Overwhelming student support for this question would help us do that, it would just add another kind of tool in our arsenal when we go to deans and we go to administrators. They will know that students actually care about this.”
Another set of questions collects data about undergraduate usage of the MBTA, which is intended to be used by the HUA’s Residential Life Team to advocate to administrators for a College-wide MBTA discount program.
Several of Harvard’s other schools are already enrolled in an MBTA program that offers discounts to students, according to Residential Life Team Officer Hamza T. Masoud ’26.
“Our Blue Bike subsidy programs have shown us that there’s a lot of demand from students for discounted transportation to Boston, so we thought there’d also be significant interest in discounted MBTA passes. The MBTA helps students get to classes at Berklee, NEC, and MIT, so we’d like to make using it less financially burdensome,” Masoud said.
The final question asks students to choose from a list of three names to be given to an unofficial turkey mascot: John, Remy, and Trottie.
The HUA plans to announce the winning mascot name during the week of Harvard’s annual football game against Yale.
—Staff writer Natalie K Bandura can be reached at email@example.com
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