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Harris and Gan Pledge to ‘Build Tomorrow’s Harvard’ at UC

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Ever since they joined the Undergraduate Council as freshmen, Noah A. Harris ’22 and Jenny Y. Gan ’22 have worked as a pair.

A transport program for students’ non-emergency trips to local hospitals marked the first of many UC collaborations for Harris and Gan. Gan would check a student’s reimbursement form every two weeks; Harris would then reimburse them via Venmo.

Now, Harris and Gan are running to serve as the Council’s president and vice president on a platform of “Building Tomorrow’s Harvard” through initiatives addressing diversity and inclusion, student life, and health and wellness.

Harris, a Government concentrator and a junior in Dunster House, currently co-chairs the Council’s Black Caucus and serves as UC Treasurer. A junior studying Neuroscience in Leverett House, Gan has served as First Year Class Committee Chair and Student-Faculty Committee Director.

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The pair argues that experience on the Council and actionable proposals make them uniquely qualified for the job.

“We've been able to execute for students and so students know what they're able to get,” Harris said. “We not only have the most experience, but it's good experience, because we've been doing the work.”

Diversity and Inclusion

If elected, Harris and Gan said, they would seek to hold Harvard accountable for its commitment to anti-racism, diversity, and inclusion, which Harris said the University had “not been living up to.” On their campaign website, the pair detailed a number of virtual and in-person initiatives aimed at that goal.

Harris and Gan proposed an Advocacy Fund, which would help fund student activists who may incur a financial burden from protesting and organizing as they pay for food, travel, megaphones, paint, and the like.

“We want to make sure student activists are supported,” Gan said.

The pair also hopes to establish the One Harvard Fund, which they envision as a yearlong fundraising initiative for the student body. Under the system, undergraduates would vote on a charitable organization to receive their collective donations.

Gan said the One Harvard Fund would build off a Council fundraiser Harris spearheaded last spring, which raised over $46,000 for organizations furthering the Black Lives Matter movement.

The pair also aims to foster dialogue about intersectionality by granting affinity groups up to $500 to plan joint virtual events.

Apart from these new initiatives, Harris and Gan plan to expand the Peer to Peer Mentorship Program — originally launched by Gan. The program funds and promotes mentorship programs within student organizations and affinity groups, which the candidates said are crucial to building connections between upperclassmen and freshmen studying from home.

Harris and Han also advocated for some in-person initiatives, including the creation of a multicultural center and a first-year social space. They said both goals may not be realistic goals during a mostly virtual school year, but still hoped to push for these spaces — the former of which students have argued for since the 1960s.

Gan said she and Harris hope to “continue laying the groundwork” for both.

Student Life

Harris said he envisions creating an engaging virtual campus community that “more resembles the in-person one.”

The pair plans to expand a recently enacted pilot partnership between Lyft and the UC that provides transportation to essential services, including hospital appointments and COVID-19 testing. The initiative would also supplement shuttle services to improve night safety for students on campus.

“It makes essential services way more accessible and affordable for students,” said Gan. “And we’re hoping to expand it in the spring to include more students, more funding.”

Harris and Gan hope also to partner with a telecommunications company to subsidize Internet services for students taking virtual classes with spotty Wi-Fi.

For undergraduates living on campus, Harris and Gan said they will work to expand cheap and flexible spring and summer storage as an alternative to existing options like Olympia Moving and Storing, the center of recent frustration. The Council recently rolled out its storage program, Gan said, a program the pair would continue into their term.

Health and Wellness

As a third plank, Harris and Gan said that they want to support an undergraduate community struggling with mental health and sexual assault.

The pair has proposed adding mental health questions to the daily check-ins students living on campus must complete. Gan said that while Harvard has successfully promoted physical wellness during the pandemic, she and Harris want to provide students with easy access to mental health resources.

“Our goal is to create a space where students can check in with their mental health, as much as they feel comfortable, and providing resources,” Gan said. “So the same resources that are provided for physical health reasons — for COVID — for mental health.”

They also plan to advocate a sexual assault prevention policy that elevates the work of student activists, push for an increases in staff and funding at the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, and call on Harvard to adopt an affirmative consent standard.

The pair said the sexual assault prevention policy they propose would extend to male-dominated social groups.

“Making sure that they are held accountable for the actions of their members, for creating a safe environment for everybody, and also for advocating for survivors — that’s the job of leaders of the UC, student activists, and social groups, on creating that environment,” Gan said.

Harris and Gan also have plans for in-person students: providing free drug-testing chips for drinks, dispensing safe-sex supplies through a health and wellness vending machine, and expanding a pilot program that offers free and accessible disposable hygiene products.

Representing a Virtual Student Body

Harris and Gan said the role of Council’s president and vice president in a virtual environment is to “fill gaps” in the student experience — especially for those students studying from home.

“We really just want to make sure that students are able to have what they need, because they're not as engaged in their clubs or in the social experience at Harvard,” Harris said.

They also said the Council should serve as a liaison between students and administrators during a virtual school year. Harris said that he hopes to establish connections with the administration via twice-semesterly meetings with University President Lawrence S. Bacow and monthly meetings with Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana.

Harris said he and Gan hope to invite students to these meetings so they can air their concerns when Harvard is “out of step.”

The pair also wants to connect with students themselves, Gan added. They plan to hold open office hours and send biweekly communications detailing virtual events, the UC’s work, and programs and subsidies for which students may be eligible.

“Now it's not as much word of mouth, it's email,” Gan said. “They’re all virtual; that's so different than what it used to be.”

Harris and Gan said Harvard undergraduates need strong and experienced leadership for a school year like no other.

“We have the experience to get things done and we have the ability to do those things,” Harris said. “But we also are willing to meet this moment and to be the leaders that you need during this unprecedented time.”

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