UPDATED: November 16, 2020, 12:51 p.m.
Harvard’s Undergraduate Council passed legislation Sunday establishing a feedback system for its members to anonymously report diversity-related issues within their ranks.
The legislation’s list of sponsors included the UC’s current and incoming presidents and vice presidents — James Mathew ’21, Ifeoma E. “Ify” White-Thorpe ’21, Noah A. Harris ’22, and Jenny Y. Gan ’22, respectively. Mather House representative Anusha “Anu” Zaman ’23; Cabot House representative Brooke L. Livingston ’23; Adams House representative Esther J. Xiang ’23; and Elm Yard representative Emily M. “Emmy” Cho ’24, a Crimson News comper, also sponsored the proposal.
Members would be able to respond to the feedback from the legislation anonymously, though they would have to provide their name under certain conditions. If the Council finds a member guilty of misconduct, the body can punish them via reprimand, censure, or expulsion from the UC.
However, the feedback system would be centered around the victim, and the goal was not to punish a member in such a manner, Zaman said.
The current consequences are “cancel culture disguised as accountability,” Zaman wrote in an email to The Crimson. “These measures [need] to be changed as they could be easily weaponized and abused against peers.”
“You can raise concerns anonymously which will be addressed at the level to which it had public scrutiny,” Zaman said Sunday. “If it’s a private issue, I would require to have your name, just for the purpose of being able to follow up.”
The act cited an internal survey the Council launched to investigate “allegations of racism, misogyny, classism, and various mechanisms of othering.”
“There’s a lot of issues like racism, misogyny, classism, mechanisms of othering that were found at various levels of interaction within the UC,” Zaman said. “As a result of that we want to have responses that will actually find solutions.”
The survey results showed six members of the Council indicated disagreement or neutrality with the statement, “if I could decide all over again, I would still want to be a member of the UC.” Eight disagreed with a statement suggesting that Council general meetings provide a welcoming environment. Sixty percent of members reported witnessing overt bullying on the Council, whereas ninety percent reported witnessing covert bullying.
“Sometimes male voices still dominate, even though my committee is majority female,” one member said in the survey.
Sunday’s meeting was not the first time Council members raised issues of diversity, belonging, and inclusion. In 2018, some council members gave a presentation to the UC on gender dynamics within the body. At the time, the presenters told The Crimson they thought “the Council can sometimes take male representatives more seriously than other UC representatives.”
Zaman said those concerns still linger today.
“I’ve already had people contact me, speak off the record about their experiences and to have certain things addressed,” Zaman said. “I think it’s really important that we pass this.”
The legislation passed unanimously.
—Staff writer Hannah J. Martinez can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @martinezhannahj.