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John S. Cooke ’25 and Shikoh M. Hirabayashi ’24 — the only two Harvard Undergraduate Association presidential candidates to currently hold positions on the HUA — plan to “make Harvard home.”
The pair, who first met during a club tennis game, are not the most likely match. Cooke, a first generation student from Las Vegas, Nevada, is studying government; Hirabayashi, an international student from Tokyo, is pursuing a double concentration in neuroscience and physics.
The main pillars of their campaign center on mental health, social life, and academic life. Cooke and Hirabayashi say their first priority is to address mental health on campus, and they plan to shorten Harvard’s Counseling and Mental Health Services’ wait time to 10 days or under.
“CAMHS under 10 days will be one of the first major initiatives that we take on just because the need is definitely there,” Cooke said. “We want to have CAMHS as a source so that people can reliably go to in order to get the mental health support they need, and right now it’s not filling that need.”
Cooke and Hirabayashi are also concerned about academic equity for athletes and students who observe religious holidays. They aim to encourage the administration to record more classes and create more flexible section and exam times, especially on Fridays.
“We really want to ensure that everyone can have that sort of academic freedom,” Hirabayashi said.
A major focus under the pair’s student life initiatives is club funding, both in “demystifying” the process and establishing a weekly funding process. Cooke said they hope to have every student group “apply weekly for the events that matter to them.”
Cooke and Hirabayashi have also suggested creating an app and website to allow student organizations to directly apply for funding from the HUA in real time.
In addition to improving clubs on campus, they hope to improve the shuttle system, install nap pods around campus, “de-pest” residential housing, and host forums and HUA co-sponsored parties with clubs.
“So many people have told me that they feel very unsafe walking back to the Quad at night from the river on a weekend or weekday,” Hirabayashi said. “Improving these evening vans and increasing the number as well is definitely a key priority.”
Cooke and Hirabayashi said they feel well equipped to tackle these initiatives, given their experiences as social life officer and academic officer of the HUA, respectively. As current members of the HUA, they said they have worked on events like Concentration Day and a book drive last fall, which raised $11,000 in subsidies for low-income students.
The pair said they are excited by the prospect of continuing their HUA work together in the future as co-presidents.
“We have similar visions for what we want Harvard to be like,” Hirabayashi said. “There’s so much that we can do together, whether that may be standing on stage talking to people or whether that may be working more grassroots — going through files, talking to administrators, or really printing out flyers for our new initiatives.”
—Staff writer Darley A. C. Boit can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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