Cambridge Common's UC wish list
In their meetings with the candidates, student groups got a chance to interview our new UC leaders John and Annie about their stances on issues paramount to the groups’ goals. Since Cambridge Common seeks to build a progressive community of its own (as well as bridging existing communities), I thought it might be cool to assemble our very own wish list for the new head honchos. What would you like to see the UC take on in the coming year? (more in expanded post)
At last night’s trans activism and education panel, for instance, we envisioned a UC bill that would reaffirm a commitment the UC made in spring semester of 1997. As one panelist recounted, that year the UC amended its own constitution to include gender identity in its non-discrimination clause, and also passed legislation urging Harvard to follow suit. Now, nearly a decade later, the University’s policy still isn’t on par with the Council’s. The UC could use its pressuring power to help change that. Also, the UC could add gender expression to its protection codes. One speaker last night emphasized the difference between gender expression--the gender a person chooses to ‘present’ or appear as--and gender identity--the gender with which they personally identify, regardless of how they present. It's important to distinguish between the two because some people who identify as transgender may be unable to express themselves according: doing so could jeopardize their social relationships, their jobs, and even their lives.
Harvard has an opportunity to lead the state and the nation in protecting against discrimination based on gender identity and expression. So far, only a handful of states have passed such provisions (Maine most recently joined the ranks), and Massachusetts is not among them, despite the fact that eight of its Congressional Representatives co-sponsored federal legislation, introduced to the House in May of this year, that would add gender identity and expression to existing hate crime laws. It would be wonderful to see the UC take up this fight.
Another item on my wish list—inspired by Annie Riley herself—might be a declaration supporting Harvard in making all the new buildings and facilities to be erected in Allston wheelchair-accessible. Harvard may very well already plan on doing this, but I think it would be great for the UC to publicly affirm its position, if for no other reason than to get students thinking about the issue of accessibility. I would say the UC should extend such a declaration to apply to all campus buildings, but I get the feeling it would probably just be wasting its collective breath on that. It’s easier, after all, to plan on building elevators and ramps (with sensible gradients!) into constructions starting from scratch than to add them to existing halls and houses.
All right, enough from me—what are some of y’all’s dream bills? UC reps, veterans, and affiliates: you guys have an inside look and thus have a different idea of what’s needed and what’s feasible. Share with us! Student group members and leaders: your endorsements gave clues as to which issues are hot for you right now, but how do you foresee those concerns translating into legislation? Anyone and everyone: what do you want to see happen between now and next December?