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Dean of Students Office Affirms Support for Newly-Adopted Student Government, Continuity of Club Funding

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Harvard College Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair affirmed her office’s support for the newly-ratified Harvard Undergraduate Association in an interview Wednesday — one week after students voted overwhelmingly to dissolve the 40-year-old Undergraduate Council in favor of the new student government.

“We fully support the will of the students and will support the new organization and their goals,” O’Dair said. “What we’re focusing on is how we move forward to help them build a new, productive organization that represents student voice.”

Associate Dean for Student Engagement Jason Meier said he and Assistant Dean Kate T. Colleran offered advice to the Citizens’ Assembly — a randomly-selected group of undergraduates who drafted the HUA constitution — during their deliberation process, but left final decisions to the students.

“Ultimately, those decisions are their own, and I think that we like to think of ourselves as in partnership,” he said. “Dean Colleran and myself will continue to be in strong partnership with the co-presidents and all of the projects that come out of the new committees within the HUA.”

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“That support, I think, will only continue to grow as the HUA takes shape in the next few months,” Meier added.

After fulfilling his signature campaign promise to dissolve and replace the UC, Michael Y. Cheng ’22 resigned as president of the body on Tuesday, leaving the transition to the HUA in the hands of his former vice president, Emmett E. de Kanter ’24.

Following ratification of the HUA constitution, students expressed concerns that club funding — a staple UC function — would fall to the wayside during the transition. Meier said the DSO will work with de Kanter and his new vice president, Christopher T. Cantwell ’22-’23, to ensure the continuity of club funding.

“Emmett and the new vice president Chris are very much committed to honoring what is being requested for club funding,” he said. “We’re just here to continue to support them in wrapping up this chapter of the UC.”

Over the summer, the DSO will advise the HUA’s new Finance Committee, which will be responsible for ensuring the fair distribution of club funding in future semesters, Meier added.

“Following the election of new leadership, we're going to have to figure out what these new financial policies and procedures look like so that they are in alignment with best practice and how to effectively do this for all of our student organization community,” Meier said.

Meier also confirmed the UC will carry out its summer storage program before the HUA takes over at the end of the spring semester.

“The UC is continuing to do their own work in helping create storage opportunities, and this work was in place before the vote on the HUA occurred,” Meier said. “We fully expect the UC to carry this through as one of their final full projects before the end of the year.”

Before the pandemic, select upperclassman houses also offered space for students to store their belongings during the summer months. Associate Dean of Students Lauren Brandt said this free on-campus storage “was not the norm for students.”

“What has happened is that transition has also been conflated with the pandemic in a way that is probably not entirely true to what was happening,” Brandt said. “Many of the houses have taken those spaces and turned them into programmatic spaces for their community, and therefore it's not appropriate to use them for summer storage anymore.”

“We've also set up supports with Collegeboxes, which is a discounted service that students can take advantage of to store their items,” she added. “There are existing supports in place, just different from what was previously offered.”

Correction: April 11, 2022

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Jason Meier’s title. He is the College's Associate Dean for Student Engagement.

The Crimson interviews Harvard administrators — including the College's dean of students, Katherine G. O’Dair — regularly during the academic year. Click here to submit a question for consideration in our next interview.

—Staff writer Audrey M. Apollon can be reached at audrey.apollon@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Christine Mui can be reached at christine.mui@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @MuiChristine.

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