Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Greenlaw and Morris for the UC

Bar "Issues of Varsity Athletics" on the varsity athletes' platform, the only difference between the three tickets' platforms this year is that the Rather/Banks ticket collapses sexual assault and mental health into the single issue "Open Dialogue", while adding the plank "Open the Yard", read "Freshman Life".

I'd be inclined to write this off as a matter of branding and rhetoric rather than ideology, except that at the Crimson-hosted UC Crossfire debate, Danny Banks tried to make hay out of it -- claiming proudly that "We are the only platform with a third of our platform dedicated to freshmen."

I don't think you can believe that those words mean anything if you don't also believe that they mean other planks holding less importance. The time, energy, and political capital of the UC presidency is limited, and if you believe that freshman social life deserves attention at the expense of mental health on campus, then your candidates are Rather and Banks.

But I'm voting Greenlaw/Morris.


Will Morris, before the UC vice presidency crossed his mind, has been writing eloquently on the chords of discontent often heard on our campus; perhaps you remember Dear Andy?

I hope this letter to you will help change things for others. I hope it will convince someone who is like me all those years ago to find the support that they need. I hope it will encourage someone like me now—too busy with their midterms, their finals, and their papers—to check in on a friend. I hope it will encourage us as a community to fight against the stigma surrounding mental health issues both in our college and in our nation. And most of all, I am sorry that we live in a society where we could not talk openly to each other.


Or its follow-up, It's Time to Talk About Mental Health Reform. Or Putting the Administration on Notice:

Undergraduates, alumni, faculty, potential applicants and donors to Harvard University, it is time for all of us to put Harvard’s administration “on notice.”

It is time for the administration to publicly acknowledge its decades-long failure to act. It is time for them to take immediate steps to provide readily available and safe social spaces on campus. It is time for us to remind them that if our administration does not provide or encourage the establishment of safe avenues for students to enjoy themselves, it hinders our mental, social and physical well-being. It is time for them to know that we are young. That we are stressed. That we need some way to unwind after endless all-nighters, papers, and psets. That we yearn for some approximation of “actual college” life in this notoriously intense environment.

We are students. We are human. We are not just numbers on John Harvard’s stock portfolio. Let them know that it is time for John Harvard to invest just a tiny fraction of his 33 billion dollar endowment into students' social and mental wellbeing.


Mental health is one of the foremost issues on our campus today, and I appreciate the bravery and honesty with which Will Morris discusses issues which resonate with my personal experience at Harvard. It's rare that you read in the Crimson that "objective achievement means very little when life is nothing but shame and darkness," but it's a cause which must be front and center.


I believe that Will Morris is the UC outsider we deserve, and I believe that Will Greenlaw is a president that this student body needs. I've seen him talk a roomfull of Harvard students into joining the Ballroom Dance Team. As a friend, I've known him as an at times eccentric -- but always amiable -- conversationalist. His readiness to laugh bugs some, but I've found it always infectious. I trust that as president, he'll put both longtime allies and longtime enemies of the UC at ease, and be able to approach them in the spirit of constructive cooperation.

As leader of a student group, I've seen him go the extra mile as UC Grants Chair to ensure that my organization actually followed through on the changes we agreed to as condition for a grant; in the face of unexpected pushback, we grit our teeth and made changes we had not planned to. I believe that his proposal to re-work UC grants in order to incentivize groups to make real change has real potential to work, and actually work, not just whatever passes for good-enough-for-UC-work nowadays.

And on Saturday night, I saw him call out Shaiba and Danny for their disregard for the necessity of a positive, cooperative relationship when working to promote change in long-entrenched, external institutions that which neither the UC nor the University itself can simply order around. I am convinced, after the debate, that if any of the tickets have a chance of promoting real, healthy, sustained reform on issues of concern regarding unrecognized single-sex social organizations on this campus, it is the pair of candidates who aims to reach out with an open hand, rather than a closed fist.


The Crimson disagrees; they've endorsed Rather/Banks. Newly-resigned Crimson editorial editor Thomas Huling describes the deliberation process:

The meeting with Rather and Banks went without incident.

“The two Wills” as they were referred to at the meeting, William Greenlaw and William Morris IV, arrived several minutes later than their scheduled time because Greenlaw was dealing with a personal emergency involving the mental health of someone close to him. The board was notified of this at the last minute, though it took the Greenlaw-Morris campaign two attempts to reach us, because the person they attempted to contact declined their phone call to look at the new Harvard Crimson Snapchat filter.

Upon hearing that their ticket would be late, the chair of the meeting said she believed it “reflected poorly” on them as a ticket that they were not on time. It is important to note that the rules of the Harvard Crimson prohibit “opining from the chair” to prevent situations exactly like the one that occurred. Furthermore, given the focus on mental health issues in all three UC campaign platforms, which the Crimson Editorial Board supports, it is beyond unreasonable to suggest that any candidate should be judged negatively for prioritizing the well-being of someone close to them over a meeting with the student newspaper.


In a similar vein, however, a board member also pointed out that Morris, a current Editoral Board comper, had become significantly less reliable in completing pieces for the comp after becoming a candidate for the UC vice presidency. Morris has, in fact, already published three pieces in the Crimson opinion section, all focused on mental health and all incredibly emotional, genuine, and well-written. It is apparent that Morris’s priority is bringing focus on mental health to campus, whether through pieces written for the Crimson or in more tangible ways through the UC.

The fact that his focus on the campaign over the Crimson itself was even brought up, like the negative comments made about Greenlaw’s decision to prioritize the mental health of those he cares about over punctuality, illustrates the collective narcissism of the Crimson and the institutional disdain for those who dare to place other activities or interests above the Crimson.


One board member observed that during Greenlaw’s speech, his eye contact had moved from left to right, meeting each person in the room. “We get it, you read a book on rhetoric once, but don’t make it that obvious. I’m sorry, I’m just kind of shitting on Will right now, but…” to which the chair responded, “No, keep shitting on… well, not shitting on him, but if you have a point, and I think you do.” I am deeply disturbed that this sort of ad hominem attack was not only allowed to happen, but was directly legitimized by the person in charge of the meeting.

When a board member attempted to voice his discomfort with this line of argument, he was “comforted” by assurances from the chair that the final editorial would not include this line of argument, but rather be an endorsement of one of Greenlaw’s opponents. “We can kind of bring this in by saying we think Shaiba and Danny would be more effective in dealing with the administration” the chair added, again legitimizing attacks on one person, rather than the type of positive arguments that are undeniably more appropriate.


I do not believe that the Crimson's juvenile pettiness should be taken as a strike against Rather and Banks, but if this is even half true, then its endorsement isn't worth the newsprint it was distributed on. I'll offer a retraction in this space if I get convincing evidence to the contrary.


More substantively, though, I worry two major planks of Shaiba and Danny's platform are outright impossible, and sidetrack opportunities to discuss avenues for real reform.

First, their "Open Social Spaces" initiative is literally centered around a series of unconditional demands for Final Clubs. Social reform which depends upon convincing clubs to change the punch process, reverse no-party policies often imposed by alumni boards, or include women's groups in discussions on gender equity is going to be a long time coming. Our school needs real reform, and this is not a ticket with a plan for it.

(Will Morris, on the other hand, can speak to successfully instituting changes to party norms at a single-sex social organization.)

Similarly, placement of a student on the Harvard Board of Overseers -- one of four pillars of Rather/Banks's "Open Dialogue" initiative is a distraction from the advocacy we need from the UC. It is unclear how a one-year student member can expect to be taken seriously by a thirty-member board elected to six-year terms. On Saturday, Shaiba and Danny sparred with the debate moderator about what exactly it is that the Board does, but it ought to be clear that this is far from the most profitable path to real change on issues of sexual assault policy.

(By contrast, Will Greenlaw serves on the University President Drew G. Faust’s sexual assault task force.)


I believe that Will Morris has the ties and perspective to speak to the administration about the need for the administration to recognize single-sex organizations -- an issue that all candidates on stage Saturday night agreed was important. As a member of a fraternity that instituted reforms to make parties safer, he's the only candidate with a history of implementing the things which we all agree need to be done. And his demonstrated belief that mental health should be an issue rather than an aside cannot be stressed enough.

Will Greenlaw, I can say from personal experience, is the sort of person who can change people's minds with a winning combination of good humor, open-mindedness, and firm insistence on the ideals and spirit of reform. On Saturday when other tickets threw out applause-worthy but implausible proposals, he spoke to the approaches and methods needed for real change on this campus. More importantly, he has experience both working through the UC and with the administration on exactly the issues we need to address on campus today.


Vote here.