Harvard’s Undergraduate Council called an emergency meeting Friday to pass legislation calling for the group to hold undergraduate-only town halls about the College’s spring semester plans.
The legislation — which passed unanimously — was sponsored by UC Treasurer and incoming President Noah A. Harris ’22, Mather House representative Yousuf Bakshi ’23, Leverett House representative and incoming Vice President Jenny Y. Gan ’22, and Lowell House representative Samyra C. Miller ’21. It called for the Council to hold “issue-specific” Zoom meetings to address student concerns about the spring semester.
Harvard announced its plans for the spring 2021 semester last week, inviting to campus seniors, enrolled juniors, and students with learning environment needs or who live more than four time zones away. The news elicited mixed reactions among the student body, ranging from excitement to caution.
“This decision has created significant uncertainty among students grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Council’s legislation read. “It is imperative for students to have a space to relay their concerns and advocate for changes before the spring semester.”
The town halls will cover four areas: health and wellbeing, academic life, freshman and sophomore issues, and campus life and student experience. The Council will select moderators from Council committees that cover those four areas, with the chair of each committee facilitating the relevant meeting over Zoom.
The legislation stated that the town halls would give students a “safe space to have a productive discussion with their peers.”
“We really wanted to [have] a space for students to be able to voice their opinion in the wake of the spring 2021 decision that just came out,” Harris said.
College administrators held their own town hall meeting over Zoom to discuss students’ questions about the spring 2021 plans. Administrators will not be invited to the Council’s town halls, however, Bakshi said.
The town halls would give attending students the opportunity to make policy recommendations, ask questions, and share concerns about the spring semester, per the legislation. Students can also pose questions to the rest of the audience both anonymously and non-anonymously through Zoom’s chat function or a Google form. The Council plans to hold the meetings at varying times in a bid to accommodate international students.
“We think it’s very important that people have a space where they’re able to talk about their issues or concerns,” Bakshi said. “This just gives them a space, a platform to discuss their ideas.”
The Council plans to “present conversation takeaways and recommendations to members of the Harvard administration,” following the meetings — echoing a similar report the Council prepared anticipating the College’s decision last month. That document, titled “Harvard At Risk,” grew out of a Council survey of undergraduates.
In an interview with The Crimson last week, University President Lawrence S. Bacow said the College tried to invite as many undergraduates back to campus as possible while prioritizing public health constraints.
The town halls are scheduled for Dec. 8 and Dec. 9.
—Staff writer Hannah J. Martinez can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @martinezhannahj.