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Friday, December 02, 2005

Haddock/Riley (Question 2)

Below is the Haddock/Riley ticket's (John specifically) response to question 2:

"We, the undergraduates of Harvard College, are an important part of the University community, and are therefore entitled to an active role in deciding its policies and priorities." - The Constitution of the Undergraduate Council.

Annie and I believe that the UC, as an elected and accountable student government, has a responsibility to advocate on behalf of the students on issues that affect their lives and our community.

Let me be clear. The UC should not take stances on national political issues over which University Hall has no control. We have moved beyond the days of irrelevant UC resolutions on wars and partisan elections, and the student body is better off as a result. However, the UC has continued to fight for students on political issues that affect their campus experience and can be resolved by the administration. Just last year, for instance, the UC pushed the administration on environmental proposals like renewable wind energy. Additionally, we appoint a student representative to the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility to make sure that Harvard is a responsible corporate citizen. (more in expanded post)

Frankly, I think terms like "political agenda" do not accurately convey our reasons for adopting such bills as the recent South Asian Studies proposal. When did looking out for students and their interests become "political"? I reject attempts to pigeonhole the UC's advocacy efforts into partisan boxes. We will advocate for whatever changes we believe make tangible, positive impacts on student life, regardless of which political groups they please.

Two of our platform issues dearest to our hearts - support for low-income and disabled students - could potentially be seen as politically charged. But we think a more inclusive community benefits more than just the students directly affected by these policies. We felt that this was validated when we read Katie Loncke’s excitement about our plans in a previous thread at Cambridge Common. Take a look at our platform for details; we are absolutely committed to issues like expanding the Student Events Fund.

Annie has particular zeal for the cause of the disabled because she is a leader in Best Buddies, a PBHA group that pairs Harvard students with developmentally disabled "buddies" in the community. I promise that Annie and I will push for these causes no matter who accuses us of a political agenda.

Our platform for student groups is more practical than political. Annie and I believe that student groups are essential for establishing community and social life at Harvard. Take a look at our endorsement from the Harvard College Democrats to see how we attracted student groups. The Dems speak glowingly of our plan to expedite the grants process and shift money ear-marked for the next "Booze Cruise" over to their club, where a community and social life already flourishes.

We're certainly happy when our goals for administration policy changes coincide with those of student groups, but that's not how we approached them and that's not why we are receiving endorsements.

In sum, when we can go to the administration about a political issue that will have a tangible effect on students' life, we'll get involved. We will deliver what the students want and will benefit from, whether that's a student group grant, an expanded party fund, or policy advocacy before the administration.

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...

"Frankly, I think terms like "political agenda" do not accurately convey our reasons for adopting such bills as the recent South Asian Studies proposal."

I hate to break it to you, but the debate over various forms of ethnic studies is HIGHLY political, because it has to do with the structure of an educational system that many view as skewed toward a dominant, western, white culture. This is not simply "looking out for students."

When Afro (the old name for BSA) was fighting to get the Af-Am department in the late 60s and early 70s, there were rumors that it was going to blow up Widener (not true, but intentionally spread to scare the administration), people across the country have taken over buildings for issues related to ethnic studies.

While I generally agree with you opinion- that the UC should be involved in student-related political issues but not national/int'l ones- I think it's way off to ignore the political content of a lot of the things you're already doing and advocating for. The UC may maintain some semblance of innocent apoliticalness by acting like things it's doing aren't political, but it is being very political all the time.

At 5:58 PM, Anonymous Josh Patashnik said...


Your point is well taken. I think John's contention is not that these issues don't have a political dimension (clearly they do), but that the basis for determining whether the UC should get involved should be entirely apolitical: does the issue directly contribute to quality of student life? Obviously once the UC makes the decision to get involved, representatives' political sensibilities will play a strong role in their decisions (as they did on the workers' rights bill). But the decision to get involved is based upon one question: is there a direct relationship here to student life? That's mostly a nonpolitical question.

At 7:31 PM, Blogger Ben said...

I would add that as a UC member, I didn't approach the South Asian Studies proposal from a political or ideological perspective, and I don't think anyone did. All the debate revolved around the mechanics of the bill, not its purpose.

If John had any "agenda" going into that meeting, it was that he wants to improve students' lives at Harvard.

At 10:45 AM, Blogger Jersey Slugger said...

I agree with all of you on some level. Andrew, I do feel the political dimension to a lot of these issues may be over looked in the course of advocating for the student body. I'm all for positive change but simply moving forward on something that makes students happy and not wanting to deal with possible political ramifications or fall outs from it seems unrealistic.

Josh, I do think that you are correct in pointing out John's true contention.

Ben, I feel that any UC representative (whether general member or President/VP) should take into account the political side of all issues. Supporting a bill for something simply due to its text and applicability to undergraduate life at Harvard is living in a vacuum. Almost every issue taken up by the UC can be made into something political. I assure you.

Where I differ from the Haddock/Riley ticket is on the point of whether or not the UC should take stands on issues of national/international politics. I think we should and have a duty to as the most priveleged students in the nation/world. I mean privileged in the sense that we go here. The background of many students here launches that privilege to a whole 'nother echelon. The world watches Harvard and its students who are almost God-like to many people. Whatever we say is important or organize and mobilize ourselves around will receive press attention and instant validity. It will impact people on other campuses. It will impact policy makers from University Hall to Capitol Hill (when done correctly). We have tons of collective power to push towards change in society that is unharnessed at Harvard, probably due to the fact that most people are willing to sign an online petition about worker's rights at Harvard, but far fewer would be willing to occupy one of the top administrative buildings on campus to do so. I say this to say that in the past when the student body as staunchly got behind particular issues through action, those issues have been addressed. As the representative body of the students at Harvard College, the UC therefore could play a huge role in getting those issues important to us (that DO impact students, in one way or another) addressed.


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