Harvard College’s immense diversity of interest and talent puts the Undergraduate Council in a unique position to build a campus community around the diversified passions of its students. The UC should be a facilitator and collaborator of a rich and meaningful campus life. As a representative body of student needs, the UC should have a strong role in advocating for the changes that students on campus need for vibrant academic, house, extracurricular, and social experiences.
Despite its successes in these ways, we have seen the UC fail at many of its efforts to craft its own social life, particularly when it runs in isolation from the social desires of the general student body. Knowing that a student government should be fostering a community responsive to students, we must ask ourselves what avenues are not merely the most effective in achieving this end but the most sustainably true to our diverse and active community: (more in expanded post)
- Our Role in a House Community: House Committees are the breeding grounds of localized community on campus, and it is this sort of community that is most easily conduced by Harvard’s infrastructure. Cognizant of this, the UC must commit more funding to HoCos and actively encourage vibrant and diverse house communities.
- Our Role in a Campus Community: Student groups generate specialized communities and are profoundly important for nearly every undergraduate’s college life. For this reason, we are dedicated to ensuring that student groups should no longer have to face difficult decisions about their programming and activities based on rejected UC grants applications.
- Our Role in a Social Community: The UC plays a critical role in encouraging casual and safe social activity through funding campus parties. Having fought to expand the party fund both last spring and this fall, we believe that students—and now freshmen in particular—should be encouraged to hold safe and inclusive social activities for their peers.
There is a growing consensus that the UC is institutionally incapable of promising successful campus events. Outside of the practical reasons (evidenced primarily by the $50,000 that has been lost on failed social events in the past year), there is the necessary consideration of utility. That is, students derive more from the money spent from the student activities term-bill fee when they see it delivered through packages to student groups and HoCos than when they see it in large-scale one-time events thrown by an out-of-touch student council.
Social programming has a place on this campus. We believe that concerts and the occasional social events are a fun and useful way to bring the campus together. This sort of large-scale planning should be student-driven, but our Undergraduate Council should not be the ones responsible for planning these events or expending a student activity surcharge better used funding sustainable community activity. As the campus works towards planning a structure for campus events, the UC should be forceful in its own commitment to better funding those bodies that build cohesive communities in houses, student groups, and diverse social events.
With the UC out of central large-scale social programming, our student government would greater opportunity to push for successes in fostering diverse communities that build social spirit on a regular and consistent basis. As importantly, our student government must a more critical look at improving a College in academic, extracurricular, and social opportunities. The UC has a responsibility to reengage the community on issues that matter to students of our community. With diligent and creative leadership, it has proven itself capable of making a meaningful and tangible difference to our campus community.
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