Though they’re both veterans of the UC, Heine and Turban have emphasized their differences from the rest of the Council and say the UC needs to focus more on the students it supports.
It’s a dreary Wednesday afternoon outside of Annenberg, and Undergraduate Council presidential candidate Luke R. Heine ’17’s inflatable pool has sprung a leak.
As Heine hurriedly patches the hole, his running mate Stephen A. Turban ’17 sprints across the Science Center Plaza, without his signature bowtie but clutching campaign flyers for the horde of students about to file out of Computer Science 50.
Aside from the unexpected leak, the pool works perfectly. It wins laughs, stares, and a photo with former Microsoft CEO Steven A. Ballmer ’77, who is visiting campus to announce a major donation. The pool is the latest in a series of stunts aimed to increase the ticket’s visibility, and Heine and Turban are basking in the attention.
“This is what dreams are made of,” laughs Heine, applying a thick white coat of sunscreen to his nose.
Though they’re both veterans of the UC, Heine and Turban are emphasizing their differences from the rest of the Council. The two sophomores say the UC needs to remember its mission by focusing less on its internal parliamentary procedures and more on the students it supports.
Heine, a computer science concentrator from Minnesota, and Turban, an economics concentrator from Missouri, met each other visiting Yale University’s program in Singapore when they were high school seniors. Both joined the UC during their freshman year, and both have been active in extracurricular life. Heine is a First-Year Outdoor Program leader, and Turban is a counselor with Room 13 and a teaching fellow for CS50.
Heine’s friends called him a natural leader whose enthusiasm is second to none.
Heine’s roommate, Matthew J. O’Connor ’17, said that Heine’s genuine devotion to the student body differentiates his ticket.
“Because he cares so much, he will dedicate the time [to the UC], has dedicated the time, and I imagine he will always do so,” O’Connor said.
Turban’s friends praise his ability to seemingly give 100 percent of his energy to all his commitments.
“Whether it’s just getting an organization to be more efficient and run more smoothly or getting people to notice something, Stephen’s full of awesome ideas,” said Lily H. Zhang ’17, who worked with Turban to organize a multinational flash mob to raise awareness of malaria.
Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67, whom both Heine and Turban cite as a mentor, said that the ticket shows promise “in a field of extraordinarily talented candidates.”
“I think they are high-energy, absolutely committed to making Harvard better, able to galvanize interest in their peers, and very thoughtful about initiatives that would make a real difference,” he said.
LEVELLING THE FIELD
Despite Dingman’s words of praise, Heine and Turban acknowledged that some may consider their ticket premature, as both candidates are sophomores in a race full of juniors. Still, Heine and Turban argued that their relative youth is not a disadvantage.
“I think the UC can be run by anyone who is willing to work hard, is someone who really cares about other people, and is someone who connects with administration,” Turban said.
While a two-sophomore ticket has never captured the presidency, Heine’s FOP co-leader Elizabeth W. Pike ’15 said that Heine’s ability to connect with students across all classes would benefit the UC.
“He comes at everything with fresh eyes, and is really excited to make everything better,” said Pike, an inactive Crimson editor. “He’s gotten to know so many people on this campus already that he’s tapped into many different perspectives.”
In a year when every other ticket includes at least one woman and one person of color, Heine and Turban also acknowledged that a pair of white males may seem unrepresentative of a heterogeneous student body. However, Heine argued that these criticisms overlook less visible aspects of diversity.
“When we constrain diversity to a race, a creed, a location, I think that is an oversimplified metric of what diversity is,” he said. “I grew up in northern Minnesota, which is a very rural location. I actually thought the Ivy League was pretty uptight and pretentious, and I was going to go wherever the financial aid was the best. Just because I’m a white male doesn’t mean I lived a life of privilege at all.”
Heine and Turban have advocated for a major change to UC policy that, they said, will encourage the type of inclusion that they’re working for: they want the Council to resume funding alcohol for student groups, a practice which ceased in 2008.
“It’s about building a more inclusive Harvard, which is one of the world’s most exclusive clubs as is,” Heine said. “We want to make inclusive spaces where people can have a good time, where people can really connect with their class and build a community.”
Heine and Turban hope to use UC-funded alcohol to lessen disparities in funding among social groups and clubs.
“I don’t think there should be a shadow of socioeconomic background in how successful your club is,” Heine said. “Harvard is all about levelling the playing field and making it a meritocracy.”
A LITTLE LEVITY
Watching Heine and Turban mug for a photo with a very amused Ballmer, one thing is clear: while their aims may be serious, the two plan to have a good time getting there.
“Our primary goal is not concerned with winning,” Heine said. “Turbs and I want to have a meaningful campaign, but we want to have a lot of fun doing it.”
The desire to entertain earned the disapproval of the UC Election Commission last week, when the candidates were fined $15 for replacing dining hall bulletins with copies containing watermarked campaign ads.
Heine said that the infusion of comedy was aimed at making the Council more approachable.
“Before [Samuel B. Clark ’15 and Gus A. Mayopoulos ’15] ran, I personally was not a huge fan of the UC. I thought it was a bunch of resume stuffing,” he said. “But by bringing humor into the equation, it became a conversation.”
Turban added that some of the Council’s procedures serve little purpose.
“We often vote on voting, which is a bizarre procedure in itself. There are plenty of great student groups that show that you don’t need a rigid set of rules to have a student organization,” he said.
O’Connor said that the pair’s unorthodox campaign strategies should not undermine the ticket’s legitimacy.
“I would say that this is very far from a joke ticket; it’s one of the more serious tickets going,” he said. “The UC is not going to get that much publicity unless you do slightly outrageous things.”
Do you support modifying Harvard's current sexual assault and misconduct policy to include affirmative consent?
We definitely believe that the majority of student opinion is behind including an affirmative consent clause. We both have friends who have felt like the university has not treated their instances with the responsiveness that they deserve. To a large extent, we think that including affirmative consent will make the university more responsive when these reports are put forth.
Do you believe the UC can increase its yearly budget by 50 percent or more by the time you graduate?
Increasing the term bill by 40 dollars per a student (from $75 to $110) is entirely reasonable. This is comparable to many of our peer institutions (Stanford, Yale, MIT) who have activity fees that range from $100-$220 per a student. This should be a serious priority of the Undergraduate Council and the administration, for students clearly see extracurricular as a large part of their Harvard experience.
Do you support allowing the UC to fund alcohol through its general grants?
We believe that clubs should have the choice to throw whatever social event they feel fit. From the early ’90s until 2008, the UC did fund alcohol through its general grants (called a "party grant"). This policy was intended to create a more diverse social scene at Harvard (where the UC helps smaller clubs throw the social events that they'd like).
What is a major way in which you will differ from Gus and Sietse’s approach to running the Council?
The both of us are very interested in rearranging some of the procedures/structure of the UC. Though Gus and Sietse have changed the outward face of the UC, they haven't done much internally (we still follow by parliamentary procedure, we have the same meeting structure, etc.). If we want to make the UC work for the student body, we have to make the UC work for the UC members.
How often do you think students should have to sign an affirmation of integrity under the College’s new honor code?
So, there is a lot of research that shows that signing an affirmation of integrity agreement before taking a test reduces cheating. Similarly, however, there is research that shows that if you sign an honor agreement publicly at the beginning of the year this often increases the amount of academic dishonesty. To be realistic, signing an affirmation of integrity before every major test seems like a good middle ground between the two proposals.
Would you have supported a referendum question calling on the Council to reform its structures and do away with electing representatives based on houses and yards?
This is a fascinating piece of legislation that raises an interesting question: how do we identify ourselves on campus? We think this is a really interesting conversation to have, though we do have one contention. If we do restructure how we elect representatives, we have to also think about logistics, and the advantage of having one smaller area that you represent means that you can get to know the people you represent and you know who exactly to campaign for.