Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Notes from the IOP's UC Debate

Okay, here we go again. As before, I'm paraphrasing throughout, trying to capture substance but not style.

Gene Corbin

This meeting makes me think about the importance of good leadership in our country and on this campus. Let's thank Dhruv and Ava for their leadership, and for all the candidates bravely putting themselves out there in this election.

Ground Rules

Time limits announced per-question. Keep it civil, and try to generate good ideas.

Opening Statements

Shaiba / Danny

We're here to open Harvard. That means opening social space, opening dialogue on mental health and sexual assault, and putting students in those discussions, and making the first-year experience feel like a home.

We'll hit the ground running, because for the past year, we've been working on this issues. We've lobbied the administration and planned parties. We've been crafting a bystander intervention program.

All of these issues are intertwined because students feel like they don't belong on this campus. You don't belong when you have nothing to do on a Friday, when you need to go to MHS for mental health services, or if 20% of the women in your class have been sexually assaulted

Will / Will

For a very long time, three issues have plagued our campus: mental health, sexual assault, and social spaces. But now they've come to a head. It's only now that we're trying to discuss them, and we need to make sure that our efforts don't disappear, people don't forget that they exist, and that they don't forget that they have solutions.

We are two people who have done a lot of good on the UC, and elsewhere on the campus. We're not trying to be the UC president and vice president -- we're trying to be the president and vice president of the student body.

I'm on Drew Faust's sexual assault task force, and I've advocated for student representation from day one. And I'm representing Harvard on an intercollegiate panel discussing mental health, the largest event of its type in the country.

Nick / Jeff

We have a focus on mental health, sexual assault prevention, social space expansion, but we also bring an outside perspective that hasn't been on the UC in over a decade -- the perspective of varsity student athletes. We're here to bring in fresh ideas, and we're here to revitalize this campus and the UC.

Submitted Questions

What are your views on how best to work with the administration to implement your ideas?

Will / Will

At the beginning of the semester, I wrote a number of articles in the Crimson, and Dean Khurana and the director of MHS reached out to me to speak about the student perspective. And in working with them, the thing I've realized is you need an approach of respect, but also to be firm, so that the student voice is clear.

Having a firm but fair tone is important. The admin wanted to shut down six student organizations. I was on the deliberation, and I took a firm stance that prevented them being shut down, and I'm proud of that work.

Nick / Jeff

Harvard University can't exist without its students -- they need us just as much as we need them; we have common goals, even if the admin has different things pulling them in different directions. We'll go in with that in mind -- that our needs are the most important thing to focus on. You have to go in there wanting to win; that's what wrestling taught me. We'll have that in mind, and we will not back down, because we know that we're right.

Shaiba / Danny

This is really important now; thanks to Ava and Dhruv, our relationship is stronger than ever. We now have all sorts of things, and it's no longer about students angry on the ground; the administration is coming to us. We need to stop fracturing the campus and work together.

The UC has three tools: its own funds, the student body, and the administration. We've worked with numerous adminsistrators. If anything, the admin is our biggest ally. You have to be firm with them, but you also need to approach them with respect, because the administration is the way to make realy structural change.

What projects would your ticket push that won't require advocacy to or approval from the administration?

Shaiba / Danny

I wouldn't say that advocacy and projects are separate realms. We've worked with OSAPR, Title IX, OADS, OSL. We've been working with Ava and Dhruv, and our allies at Cornell. There's advocacy where you go to the administration for help, and then there's building a [?].

When we have a Bridging and Belonging grant that we want to repurpose, that's advocacy, but it's also something we can do. But we have to ally with the administration, because that's where the real efficacy is.

Will / Will

One of the best things we can do is to provide incentives to reward clubs that engage the issues. If your club decides to institute [...], or sober party officers, the UC will reward you for doing that. We don't need the administration's approval, and we can do this right away.

"Harvard Speaks, Harvard Listens" -- we want to create a monthly space where people can come together and talk about issues of mental health, and we can do this without help from the administration.

Nick / Jeff

Our platform is feasible, but it will come one drop at a time. We have psychologists which can meet with entryways to destigmatize mental health. We can meet with DAPA and OSAPR -- this is feasible, we can incorporate this, it just takes an hour and a half each.

Our UC budget is $500k -- that can be extended to groups to subsidize their social events.

What differentiates your ticket from the other candidates? Include your biggest weaknesses.

Nick / Jeff

We're the outsiders, and we're varsity athletes. We bring hard work and passion, and we can make the UC great.

Our biggest weakness is that we don't have UC experience. We'll hit that learning curve and do our best to get past it, to be the best presidency we can be. We'll work hard, and we'll get great things done, and we'll make Harvard great for everyone.

You're going to get the other tickets' influence in the UC, but if we're not in it, we won't be in it.

Shaiba / Danny

We get stuff done. We have taken the smallest committee on the UC and grown it to the second-largest -- in one semester. There are things that you'll see happen from this ticket, win or lose, next semester.

Danny talks way too much, but in honesty, we're both from the UC. One of the most valuable things that came out of this campaign is the persective Nick and Jeff brought. There are so many parts of the student body we have to listen to, and we look forward to doing that.

Will / Will

Every ticket here is qualified to lead, but we're focused. I've hear tickets make promises they can't follow through on -- students on the Board of Overseers, open final clubs; we won't see these without years of work and lawsuits. We have ideas that we want to get done, and can get done.

It's our tendency to do everything ourselves. What a president needs is the desire to bring people together, to bring other people into the fold to do the groundwork, with a framework of trust. And I think we're the candidates to do that.

Open Questions (from Audience)

Why do you think your plans are feasible?

Will / Will

We didn't say that other plans are entirely infeasible, just that ours are more feasible.

Our plans require very little from the administration. We want to convince dining halls and the like to 'waive the fee or pay the fee'. This is feasible because the odds are in our favor. Even if we get half, that's six new social spaces.

We're going to be asking the administration, but we want to use existing resources in ways that address the need now, rather than making folks wait five, six years.

Nick / Jeff

This is one of our strengths, between mental health, sexual assault, and social spaces. It's so feasible, we brought a visual tonight.

[dunks a sock in the provided glass of water]

We want to wet the SOCH. The fact that we can't use these spaces that are empty at night is crazy. The UC has a budget of $500k, and we want to put money toward subsidizing student events and social spaces. That, combined with wetting the SOCH, can make this campus great.

Shaiba / Danny

On our first day on campus, we'll be able to change the Bridging and Belonging grant.

When it comes to our sexual assault policy, it's going to happen with or without the administration.

When it comes to first-year social experience, we've been doing that for the past year.

Harvard has resources, but there's a barrier to entry. We can reduce that in our first day in office.

How should the UC have responded to Yale and Mizzou?

Nick / Jeff

We should be showing support. They're students with legitimate concerns, and we should be supporting them and adding to the dialogue.

I enjoy privilege that I will never understand the extent of. The fact that this kind of conversation is spreading across America is so incredibly important, and I wish we as a student body could have supported the movements at Yale and Missouri. This is an obstacle that we can get over by having a conversation, and I wish Harvard had done more, saying "we need to be talking about this".

Shaiba / Danny

This is a good reminder that there are things outside this bubble. It's hard to ask student groups to organize on campuses, and I'd like to see the administration and the UC empower groups to collect. It's hard to ask organizations of people of color to find time out of their day to organize activism?

Giving them the self-care they need. This wears out our people, and who do I go to for mental health services?

Will / Will

Last year, I was the only black memebr of the UC, and this year there are 8, so I founded the UC Black Caucus. There is a protest action going on tomorrow, and I played a large part in organizing that.

Ava and Dhruv were meeting with Drew Faust, and they reached out to me, so I reached out to my friends in the black community, and they said: Harvard is not an oasis, but it's better than a lot of spaces. I want Drew Faust to sit down with the black community to dialogue about racial issues on this campus.

What are your opinions about final clubs on this campus?

Shaiba / Danny

This is a question that a lot of tickets haven't talked about. What makes a club Harvard-affiliated except for having Harvard students in it? We've fractured the student body, and we need to bring the final clubs back into the fold.

We saw the administration take the final clubs co-ed.

There's a narrative around clubs that they only accept white men, but no one knows if that's true any more, because there's an asymmetry of information. We need the demographic information to back this dialogue up.

Will / Will

We want to treat our classmates like people, and not force things down their throat through the administration.

We want to be pragmatic about creating safe social spaces. We want to take to them something Sigma Chi has already done, guidelines that make it a much safer place to be. We have a year, and we don't want to hit roadbumps and pitfalls; we want real change.

We can get groups to commit people to being sober, with their faces on posters -- so if something doesn't look right, you know who to talk to.

Nick / Jeff

Our platform sees the problems with final clubs as symptoms of problems of social space on campus. Final clubs have existed on this campus for a hundred years, and they've just now become a problem, because of the social situation.

Attacking final clubs isn't the answer -- they're a scapegoat. We don't plan on touching the final clubs, because we don't see that being real change.

There have been debates about religious and political issues on campus, and one fundamental issue has been ebtween students who want their universities to promote the idea of safe spaces vs. freedom of expression on campus. Where do you fall?

Will / Will

You have to walk the line on this issue. If you become abrasive, people who need safe spaces get pushed out. And the line we need to walk is having a conversation that's civil and respectful of other people's experiences

Too often, we hear "You're a bigot." Or "You're not interested in having an intellectual debate." If we can remove that ad hominem from this conversation, people will have more willingness to walk the line.

Nick / Jeff

Will was dead-on correct. We have free speech, but there are limitations. We do need safe spaces, because here is where we live. On the other hand, we come to Harvard to grow -- as athletes, academics, musicians... -- you need to acknowledge viewpoints that are the opposite of yours. We need to walk a fine line, and it's going to be hard.

We need to make people feel comfortable, but we also need to force them to grow.

Shaiba / Danny

This has been on my mind for quite some time. This question of "what does freedom of speech mean?" What does it mean to feel free to speak in a space? There are hierarchies that might mean that some people don't feel free to speak their mind. That's what a safe space is -- making sure that every single person on that college, in that community, feels safe to speak.

This affects us in a place like Community Conversations -- that's something that needs to happen all the time, when we talk about what it means to be a Harvard student, and everyone can feel comfortable.

Do you think that you can advocate for an open-door drinking policy? Should Harvard repurpose Pusey library into a freshman social space?

Shaiba / Danny

No institution but Stanford has implemented open-door, but in the houses, tutors turn a blind eye, and this has promoted such a safe social space. There's that freshman that asks "does it get better?", and as a sophomore, yeah, it does. Why are we pushing freshmen out of the Yard?

It's a repurposing of the proctors -- not a change of law -- and it's currently on the table.

Pusey: no.

Will / Will

I would like to see open-door happen, but I don't think it will. The drinking age is 21, and Harvard can't be compliant in that, legally.

Instead of making false promises, we want to make promises we can keep. Quincy, Adams -- these spaces are within walking distance of the Yard, but it's problematic, legally to wet the Yard.

Pusey: no; we'd do it other ways.

Nick / Jeff

The people filling out party forms have to be 21, but you'd be hard-pressed to find freshmen that old. So it would require you to change the law, and there are better ways to reform the social scene.

We don't see Pusey as a real student center, for students. Our student center shouldn't be an old library or half a hospital.

Closing Statements

Will / Will

At the end of the day, we need to understand that these issues are structural and longstanding. When you go to vote, you need to go to the ticket which has a consistent answer and the feasibility to back it up.

The UC has been insular, and full of false promises, and I want us to change that by having actual plans to make this school a better place for everyone.

Nick / Jeff

The thing that distinguishes our ticket is the varsity athletics platform, which we didn't get to talk about.

We want to move classes, especially in the outside of the 3-7 range. Hot breakfast, every neighborhood. Longer dining hall hours, not just in Dunster and Cabot.

Shaiba / Danny

Re: open-door; you're just wrong, and if there isn't a ticket out there that's behind students fighting to reclaim their common rooms in a completely legal ways...

When you talk about feasibility, we're living on a different campus. We have the experience and relationship with the administration, and that's why you need to elect us.