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HUA Problem Solving Team Sets July Deadline for Issuing Recommendations in First Meeting

The Harvard Undergraduate Association's constitutional dispute halting a College-wide referendum on divestment from Israel will not be solved until at least July.
The Harvard Undergraduate Association's constitutional dispute halting a College-wide referendum on divestment from Israel will not be solved until at least July. By Frank S. Zhou
By Cam N. Srivastava, Crimson Staff Writer

The Harvard Undergraduate Association’s constitutional dispute blocking a College-wide referendum on divestment from Israel will not be resolved until at least July, further complicating the effort to hold an undergraduate vote on divestment.

The problem solving team tasked with resolving the dispute met for the first time over Zoom on Thursday to establish that they did not intend to reach a resolution regarding the indefinite suspension of all referenda until after the conclusion of the spring semester.

Instead, the team is hoping to issue its recommendations by the beginning of July, according to a member of the team who was granted anonymity to speak about the group’s private discussions.

Two HUA officers invoked an obscure procedural motion in the student government’s constitution to establish the problem solving team and suspend all referenda after the Palestine Solidarity Committee staged a successful petition campaign for a vote on whether Harvard should divest from “Israel’s occupation of Palestine.”

After the HUA placed the divestment referendum indefinitely on hold, Harvard affiliates protested the decision in a rally on April 12, calling the HUA’s decision to postpone the referendum “a chilling attack” on the Palestinian movement.

Regardless of the problem solving team’s recommendations, it is not certain that the divestment will still proceed to a vote.

The College suspended the PSC as a recognized Harvard student organization last week, citing a violation of the terms of the group’s probation. If the group’s effort to be reinstated in the fall is denied, it is unclear whether the referendum could be impacted.

Many PSC members are also involved in the ongoing pro-Palestine encampment in Harvard Yard, which entered its sixth day on Monday.

The problem solving team, however, did not discuss PSC’s referendum specifically during the meeting or the ongoing encampment of pro-Palestine organizers, instead focusing on broader criticisms of the HUA’s constitution and discussing referenda in general terms.

As part of the group’s process for issuing suggestions on how to improve the constitution’s section on initiating referenda, members of the problem solving team discussed reaching out to experts for guidance, appointing a chair and secretary of the problem solving team, and discussing the timeline for the problem solving team’s charge.

HUA Co-President Jonathan Haileselassie ’26 and Andy Donahue — an administrator at the College’s Dean of Students Office and an adviser to the HUA — were also present at the meeting.

During the discussion, Donahue made it clear he thought there were large issues with the HUA’s constitution and bylaws besides the constitutional dispute regarding referenda. He implied the problem solving team’s charge could extend beyond just reaching a resolution to the PSC referendum postponement, according to an attendee of the meeting.

Donahue pointed to the constitution of the Undergraduate Council — the College’s prior student government that was replaced by the HUA in 2022 — as being more thorough in describing the government’s operations than the HUA’s constitution, which he said was ambiguous.

Donahue also suggested the problem solving team consult scholars at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Harvard Law School for advice in reassessing the HUA’s constitution. According to the “charge sheet” document circulated to the problem solving team, the team can reach out to experts as it makes a decision.

Donahue additionally said the formation of the problem solving team was an indication that the HUA is not functioning properly due to issues with the constitution.

A meeting attendee said they were surprised that the problem solving team has been charged with doing research for the HUA, rather than the HUA taking responsibility for its own assessments.

—Staff writer Cam N. Srivastava can be reached at Follow him on X @camsrivastava.

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