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To the editor,
A recent piece by The Crimson Editorial Board criticizing the outgoing leadership of the Undergraduate Council — of which I am the former Vice President — represents a failure of adequate research.
First, the Editorial Board claims that the outgoing leadership of the UC led the Council with “persistent financial uncertainty,” citing a single article stating that the UC tapped into $6,000 of its Emergency Fund. Yet under our leadership the UC both ran a surplus on our predecessors’ budget and grew the budget we wrote. We recommended that the Finance Committee use a small fraction of the $28,692.22 Emergency and Reserve Funds to send the message that student organizations needed more funding than previous years given the 45 percent increase in grant applications over the past year. It worked. The UC earned an approximately one-third increase in budget this year. The budget upon which the Editorial Board commented was inherited from our predecessors; with our budget we were able to give full funding with no cuts to student organizations in two-thirds of our grants, which is financially unprecedented over the past five years. We also created a public budgetary reporting system for accountability which makes it surprising that the Editorial Board claims that we provided a “lack of any real accountability mechanism.” The state of UC finance under our leadership was both ideal and significantly healthier than in recent history thus highlighting a failure of research in the Editorial Board’s claims.
Second, the Editorial Board claims that the outgoing leadership of the UC has “taken credit for other, years-long initiatives which they could not have substantially impacted,” such as the educational secondary and Smith Campus Center. Not only does the Editorial Board provide no evidence for their claim of which initiatives we “could not have substantially impacted,” but they implicitly discredit our hundreds of hours of work over multiple years and our highlighting of past students’ contributions. Student organization for the Educational Studies Secondary was spearheaded over the past two years by outgoing UC President Catherine L. Zhang ’19. We wrote to the student body in an April 12 email that “after years of student advocacy, the college has approved and a new secondary field in Educational Studies [will] be launched this Fall!” Our language makes clear that this project was the result of “years of student advocacy,” not just our two years of continuous work referenced in a later email. Furthermore, in a farewell email on Nov. 29 we claimed to have “opened the Smith Campus Center nearly a decade after the UC began advocating for it.” For the Editorial Board to claim that we took full credit for this initiative given this context would imply that we worked on this project for ten years; that implication is absurd given that we were both in middle school ten years ago and highlights the lack of qualifications for their sweeping claims. We stated that we opened the Smith Campus Center as evidenced by months of grand-opening planning meetings and our joint speech with the financial donors at the launch event. Basic research would have revealed the unfounded nature of the Editorial Board’s claims.
Third, the Editorial Board claims that the outgoing leadership of the UC performed “slow implementation one [sic] of their key campaign promises — a ‘progress bar.’” We launched the “progress bars” feature of the UC website within three months of the start of the spring semester when we took office. I coded an entire new website for the UC and worked with Harvard University Information Technology to have it installed on Harvard’s servers (which can often take years). Not only did we deliver on this promise, but we did so in the first half of our term. During the technical implementation period, we also launched a video series to transparently keep the student body updated in the interim despite the Editorial Board’s claim that we provided a “lack of any real accountability mechanism.” As the progress bars show, we began 100 percent of the things we promised and fully completed 87.7 percent. Even the slightest amount of research would have uncovered that we provided multiple platforms of detailed accountability mechanisms, had live progress bars for the majority of our term, and were successful in completing nearly nine in ten projects.
The Editorial Board should hold itself to a higher standard.
Nicholas D. Boucher ’19 is a Computer Science concentrator in Mather House. He is the former Vice President of the Undergraduate Council.
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