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Undergraduate Council to Release Remote Experience Survey Results, Pilot Racial Diversity Week

Harvard's student government voted to publicize recommendations from a student survey on the impact of the University's COVID-19 policies.
Harvard's student government voted to publicize recommendations from a student survey on the impact of the University's COVID-19 policies. By Jonathan G. Yuan
By Natalie L. Kahn, Crimson Staff Writer

The Harvard Undergraduate Council passed legislation calling for the publication of its UC Student Survey, the formation of a food collection program, and the establishment of a racial inclusivity and advocacy week at its weekly meeting Sunday evening.

Council members spent most of Sunday’s meeting discussing “An Act to Publicize the Report on Harvard’s Spring Reopening.”

The report, which seven Council members authored, is titled “Harvard at Risk: Students Struggle in an Age of Pandemic.” It covers the results of a Council questionnaire, which 669 undergraduates completed, surveying College students’ experience of the remote semester and their preferences for the spring. The sponsors wrote they hope to publish it by Wednesday, Nov. 11.

Quincy House representative Michael Y. Cheng ’22 said much of the feedback contained within the survey results revolved around the need to improve campus life.

“It was the lowest-rated thing of 40 things that we asked undergrads to rate from,” Cheng said.

Cheng noted that students living on campus felt adhering to Harvard’s social distancing guidelines was nearly impossible. They reported that the “austere” guidelines made students less willing to tell the truth to contact tracers. Some students even said they paid other students to take tests for them.

The Council’s legislation for the survey will advocate for a “harm-reduction” approach for Spring 2021. This approach calls for Harvard to facilitate some on-campus low-risk socialization and allow the reopening of more indoor spaces, such as libraries and practice rooms.

Cheng added that the writers of the legislation referenced an open letter signed by 100 public health experts endorsing that approach, which would enable Harvard to facilitate more low-risk social interaction.

Elm Yard representative Emmy M. Cho ’24, a Crimson News comper, added that the Council did not intend the recommendations to pose any risk to staff or non-undergraduates on campus.

“Students feel as though because the rules are so strict on campus, their one way of socializing is going out to the city,” she said.

Additional recommendations from the report included increased support for students struggling with mental health and students in alternate time zones and international students, particularly freshmen. The Council members also proposed an increase in the semester stipend for students on financial aid.

College spokesperson Rachael Dane did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

The second piece of legislation from Sunday’s meeting allocated $300 for five food collection bins, which will be placed in Annenberg Hall, Widener Library, Lowell House, Dunster House, and the Radcliffe Quadrangle. The bins will aim to reduce the College’s food waste.

Sponsors for a final piece of legislation, “An Act to Establish UC Racial Inclusivity & Advocacy Week,” asked that the Council fund a collaboration with the Harvard College Events Board to host events, citing “a need for increased spaces for inclusion and belonging in the Harvard community.”

The sponsors intend to hold the proposed Racial Inclusivity and Advocacy Week in mid-March to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21.

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