The Harvard Undergraduate Association approved a two month delay of their elections timeline and the creation of a new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Board during a constitutional review meeting in preparation for the spring term on Friday.
Both proposals will be brought to a majority vote before the HUA’s executive board at their weekly meeting next Sunday, and if approved, will be brought to a student referendum vote during this year’s election cycle. Under the current constitution, HUA elections for each of the nine officer positions, including the co-presidents, occur during the third week of the spring semester.
During the meeting, HUA members voted to shift the weeklong election process to exactly two weeks after the end of spring break.
“Having that election in the third week really does not provide a lot of time for students to be able to understand, ‘Oh, this is something I really want to do,’” HUA co-president Travis A. Johnson ’24 said during the meeting. “We worry that it will discourage really qualified candidates from seeking election, because they may not even know that it’s happening because it is so quick after they return.”
The HUA also approved a proposal by co-presidents LyLena D. Estabine ’24 and Johnson for the creation of a DEI team. Some responsibilites of the proposed DEI team are currently being fulfilled by the HUA’s Well-Being Team, such as coordinating with the University’s Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging. Johnson said the creation of the new board will ensure “nothing falls through the cracks.”
“This is a personal and professional priority of ours to ensure that DEI and inclusion efforts are enshrined in the HUA constitution,” Johnson said in an interview with The Crimson. “The creation of the inclusion team is not in response to any criticism from any student organization. It’s in fact something that we have always promised and pledged to do.”
Last September, Harvard Primus — a campus group for first-generation, low-income students — accused the HUA of rejecting Primus’s efforts to establish a dedicated DEI team, an allegation Estabine and Johnson denied at the time.
Johnson said he and Estabine waited to propose the DEI team because the constitution required they wait until the spring election cycle to conduct a referendum on the team’s creation and to appoint an officer to head it.
“I know that there were some concerns about the expediency with which we could create this type of team,” Estabine said. “It’s a change that we have been planning to implement, but there are things with the constitution that we have to consider when we’re making these decisions so that they are constitutionally sound.”
Johnson also encouraged students who feel strongly about an issue to directly bring their ideas to HUA’s executive team in addition to engaging in other forms of activism.
“LyLena and I are always happy to meet with students or student groups about issues they are particularly passionate about, or things they want to see happen. At the very minimum, we will promise to respond and set up a meeting,” he said. “As students, as leaders, we may disagree on approaches, but at the very minimum, we’re always excited to hear people out and listen to the ideas that they have.”
—Staff writer Natalie K. Bandura can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.