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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Grimeland/Hadfield (Question 1)

Below is the Grimeland/Hadfield ticket's response to question 1:

The phrase “student government” has lost its meaning at Harvard, which is why students have lost interest. A useful starting point in this debate is the preamble to the UC Constitution, which neatly defines the intended roles of the UC. The five we’d like to examine here are: 1) coordinating campus-wide social activities and events; 2) promoting and funding student groups; 3) securing students an active role in deciding College priorities/policies; 4) serving as a campus-wide forum for the exchange of student ideas; and 5) representing student interests.

We’d like to take this opportunity to use Cambridge Common as a forum to explore what role today’s student body wants the Undergraduate Council to have on campus. Let’s tackle the five points one at a time: (more in expanded post)

1. What is the role of any elected body – not just a student government – in coordinating social events? It’s simple: they need to make sure they happen, but they’re probably not the best people to organize them. Our pledge is to decentralize social events and supporting House life is important. House life is the center of student’s social life at Oxford University and it should be here too. We also support expansion of the Students Activities Fund, which offers grants for campus-wide social events, because we think a Fund selects more meritocratic events to support than establishing another bureaucracy.

2. It is astonishing what student groups achieve with so little support from the UC and the College. Imagine what could be achieved with just a little extra funding. Imagine how campus life would change. John Voith is right: the UC is not just a bank, but that is one role that student governments do well. You know our pledge: create a $2m endowment to increase funding for student groups by $150,000 a year. Students are rarely involved in fundraising – but we should be.

3. Is the UC currently delivering an active role for students in deciding College priorities? No. One of our pledges is to develop an investment plan that will engage the student body in shaping the spending priorities of the College. It is the role of the student government to identify areas of undergraduate life that need investment – be it anything from a social center to more bike lanes – and ultimately impact the College’s policies.

4. Perhaps the most important role of a student government, if administered properly, is to provide a campus-wide forum for the exchange of student ideas. As part of our pledge to reform the UC, we will organize and promote year-round town-hall meetings and debates like the ones taking place this week. Student groups should be invited to speak at the UC more often – just as the South Asian Association did on Monday.

5. Yes, of course, student government should represent student interests, but it should also fight more proactively for the best interests of students. We pledge to make coursepacks available online for free. It’s not enough to stick a student representative on a committee – a student government should constantly be looking for opportunities to improve the lives of students.

The broader principle that connects our pledges is ambition. We’re not happy with more of the same. We have some big, bold ideas to change student government at Harvard.

That’s our 600 words up, but we hope to dive a bit deeper into the issues in the follow-up responses. Let us leave you with two questions: Is the Undergraduate Council currently fulfilling these roles adequately? If not, why not, and - substantively - what’s going to change in the next 12 months if we elect John or John?

Please feel free to comment, question, discuss etc. Please limit your posts to 200 words each, though, and remember CC's policy on anonymous comments related to the UC campaigns.


At 3:46 PM, Blogger andrew golis said...

I'll break the ice...

Alright, I'm a little confused at the way in which you chose to answer this question. I specifically said "Rather than simply repeating your position on social programming or the Council and politics", what broader principles do you have? Listing a series of platform points is not an answer to the question, although I do want to ask questions about those points at some point. Ambition is also not a principle of government.

What, in the abstract, is the UC's role? What is its abstract charge?

At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Gabe Scheinmann said...

Students had enough of candidates talking in the "abstract" about the UC's
role. What does it mean, in concrete terms, when John Haddock pledges to "be
a facilitator and collaborator," "foster a community," "push for successes,"
and "making a meaningful difference." What will John Voith get done other
than "synthesize multiple opinions," "bring together groups" and "be a
facilitator of conversations." Enough talk. The student body deserves
candidates who talk in terms of concrete proposals and specific pledges. I
think Magnus and Tom are doing a good job of keeping the debate focused
specifically on what's going to change in the next 12 months.

At 1:22 PM, Blogger andrew golis said...

Fine, dodge and disregard the question. I don't know if that's because your campaign doesn't have an answer or actually believes what you're saying, but either way. Let's get to specifics of your supposedly specific plan:

1. What does "decentralize social events and supporting House life" actually mean? Do you support Haddock/Riley's call to "get the UC out of the social programming business?" What is the actual specifics of this proposal: a Student Events Committee, and competitive grants process, what? A lot of people worry that Grimeland/Hadfield haven't come out with a specific plan because they don't know enough about the situation to actually support a specific argument. This is a serious problem when a lot of us also believe that this is the most important issue of the campaign. Eleviate our concerns and give us some specifics!

2. How?

3. How?

4. How? (see my response to Voith/Gadgil's similar argument for increasing student voice"

5. I agree.

If you want to talk specifics, let's talk specifics!


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