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Harvard Undergraduate Association presidential candidates Zachary J. Lech ’24 and Ivan O.A. Specht ’24 said, if elected, they aim to “free Harvard” by improving mental health resources, affordability, and social life.
The pair said their campaign for the presidency began with a conversation in the Quincy House dining hall about potential improvements to student unity and quality of life.
Lech, a Crimson Arts editor, served as a Lowell House Representative in the former Undergraduate Council, which was dissolved last year and replaced by the HUA. Lech also ran in the first HUA presidential election in spring 2022.
Specht is a researcher at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where he researches ways to implement infectious disease testing programs for underserved and at-risk groups.
In an interview, Specht said the pair are atypical candidates for the presidency due to their lack of current involvement in student government. Still, Specht said this discrepancy is an advantage in terms of appealing to the student body.
“If there’s anything that Harvard community has wanted to see — over the past couple of years especially — is people who are not intimately involved in government taking over,” Specht said. “Something that I certainly hope to bring to the HUA administration as well is getting a much wider variety of people involved in leadership.”
Specht said the ticket hopes to address mental health “first and foremost,” citing lengthy wait times at Harvard Counseling and Mental Health Services. In March 2022, wait times for CAMHS appointments reached six weeks amid high demand.
“We will fight till it is accomplished that this wait time gets down to one or two weeks,” Specht said.
Lech and Specht’s campaign aims to make Harvard more affordable, citing “hidden fees” and high tuition costs in their campaign statement.
“One of the things that we want to focus on is the elimination of fees for things that we would certainly deem needless such as free laundry, free printing, free MBTA passes, as well as greater transparency around what our tuition money is actually going,” Specht said.
In their candidate statement, the pair wrote that they plan to implement more frequent shuttles on and off campus, including night shuttles to the Radcliffe Quadrangle and a shuttle to the airport around breaks.
To address accessibility issues, Lech and Specht wrote they would aim to “create a centralized funding database, a comprehensive support system for FGLI students, increase the number of advisors, and fight against unnecessary academic requirements — including Gen Eds.”
If elected, another priority for the pair is strengthening Harvard’s social scene.
“We’ll work with HoCos and student organizations on College-wide block, and house parties that students actually want to go to,” the pair wrote in the announcement. “We deserve fun events, traditions, and competitions — and a social scene that isn’t dominated by exclusivity.”
Lech said the pair would prioritize funding for organizations which have widespread impact across campus.
“As student government, you’re supposed to represent the whole of the student body, which means that what we spend should have an actual impact on the campus,” Lech said.
Lech said the co-presidency should be more than a role of “coordinators.”
“We are here to reimagine the HUA and reimagine Harvard,” he said.
—Staff writer Tristan T. Darshan can be reached at email@example.com.
—Staff writer Dylan H. Phan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dylanhieuphan
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