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Harvard Graduate Council Steps into March with Petition Deliberations, Constitutional Amendments

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The Harvard Graduate Council heard updates on recent activism work, reviewed petitions, mulled graduate student IT policies, and passed constitutional amendments Monday evening during its first public meeting of the month.

Mark R. Haidar, a Harvard Law School student and president of the Law School’s chapter of the Equal Democracy Project, opened the meeting with a presentation on the EDP Task Force — a joint initiative between undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty at the University that aims to make Election Day a University holiday.

Haidar said he hopes the recently-formed task force will project a more unified front than similar efforts in the past.

“The goal here is to show the unambiguous will of the student body,” Haidar said. “Our goal is to show that if we can get all 12 student government bodies to pass this resolution, signaling their support, then that gives a stronger call for the administration.”

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Also at the meeting, Mena W. Ahmed, a student at the Graduate School of Design, shared progress on efforts to ensure students graduating during the pandemic have access to their Harvard emails following graduation. Though the policy has been approved for 2020 graduates to expand their access to post-graduation opportunities during the Covid-19 pandemic, Ahmed said current efforts aim to extend it to 2021 graduates as well.

Ahmed also stated her goal for permanent University-affiliated email accounts, an issue she said alumni have previously raised. She cited career development, increased access to Harvard faculty, and the maintenance of a broader University network as benefits of permanent emails for Harvard graduates.

“The cost of not doing anything about this is that it puts more strain on Career Services, it’s harder to contact professors without your Harvard email,” she said. “There’s a general loss of identity and community, and feeling of backing from our institution.”

The Council also deliberated a motion to sign a letter condemning Harvard for allegedly denying tenure to Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy Cornel R. West ’74. The letter — addressed to University President Lawrence S. Bacow, University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76, and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay — criticizes the University’s decision to dismiss West's request for tenure and urges Harvard to express committment to “advancing racial justice in substantive ways.”

“Ultimately, Harvard’s denial of tenure to Professor West is a testament to Harvard’s continued expulsion of faculty who offer incisive analysis of white supremacy, racial capitalism, Zionism, and the military-industrial complex, all of which Professor West fervently critiques,” the letter reads.

Chair of Advocacy Abhinaya Narayanan said the letter not only urged administrators to grant West tenure, but also called attention to broader systemic inequalities in tenure procedures at the University.

“This letter is in regards to the denial of tenure for Professor Cornel West,” she said. “But it is more broadly around the processes of tenure at Harvard and the concerns around the lack of representation of Black and brown scholars and scholars in the ethnic studies field.”

After a discussion surrounding the deployment of ad hoc committees in the University’s tenure evaluation process, the Council declined to vote during the meeting, instead electing to move to an e-vote scheduled to close Mar. 10.

The Council also entertained constitutional amendments that standardized titles for certain elected representatives within its own ranks. One such motion called to strike the word “primary” from “primary voting representative,” and “alternate” from “alternate voting representative.”

“As such, all representatives shall be equal in position and power,” the motion reads.

A similar motion called to strike the word “vice” from “vice chair,” thus standardizing the roles of chairs in the Council. Both motions passed.

—Staff writer Isabella B. Cho can be reached at isabella.cho@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @izbcho.

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