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Cheng Resigns as UC President Amid Transition to New Student Government

Michael Y. Cheng '22, pictured at an Undergraduate Council meeting on March 27
Michael Y. Cheng '22, pictured at an Undergraduate Council meeting on March 27 By J. Sellers Hill
By Mert Geyiktepe and J. Sellers Hill, Crimson Staff Writers

UPDATED: April 6, 2022 at 12:18 a.m.

Michael Y. Cheng ’22, who successfully led the charge to dissolve Harvard’s Undergraduate Council in favor of a new student government, resigned as president of the UC on Tuesday, leaving the transition to the new system in the hands of others.

Cheng’s resignation comes just days after undergraduates fulfilled his defining campaign promise — to abolish the UC in favor of a new system — by voting overwhelmingly to dissolve the 40-year-old body in a school-wide referendum.

The surprise move, announced Tuesday afternoon in a Crimson op-ed, adds to the uncertainty of the transition from the UC to the HUA, which will now be led by Cheng’s former vice president, Emmett E. de Kanter ’24.

“I was elected on the signature promise of dissolving and replacing the Undergraduate Council. Since that’s been fulfilled, I must step aside so we can turn to our next chapter,” Cheng wrote in an email to undergraduates Tuesday afternoon.

In a written statement, de Kanter lamented Cheng’s departure.

“Michael will be missed for his leadership, incredible work ethic, and kindness to all, and has left some huge shoes to fill,” de Kanter said.

Michael Y. Cheng ’22, back, resigned as president of the Harvard Undergraduate Council, leaving Emmett E. de Kanter ’24, front, to oversee the transition from the UC to the newly-adopted Harvard Undergraduate Association.
Michael Y. Cheng ’22, back, resigned as president of the Harvard Undergraduate Council, leaving Emmett E. de Kanter ’24, front, to oversee the transition from the UC to the newly-adopted Harvard Undergraduate Association. By J. Sellers Hill

de Kanter has selected Christopher T. Cantwell ’22-’23, former parliamentarian for the UC, as his vice president. The pair will serve as the student body’s interim leaders until HUA elections are held in the coming weeks. They will not seek election into the HUA, Cheng said.

In a separate email to the student body Tuesday, de Kanter and Cantwell committed to a smooth transition, with a promise to “ease off on emails.”

The pair also outlined a timeline for the transition process and affirmed the continuity of staple UC functions, such as summer storage and club funding.

Cantwell reiterated his desire for a drama-free transition in an interview Tuesday.

“I am honestly hoping to fade into the background relatively quickly,” Cantwell said. “I want to make sure that we’re able to uphold our core obligations to the student body.”

In their email to undergrads, de Kanter and Cantwell outlined the transition timeline and solicited applicants to serve on an interim election commission, which will be selected by the UC executive board.

Elections for the first HUA officers are set to take place by April 30, per the newly-adopted HUA constitution. The document mandates that an election timeline and rules be released by April 11.

According to Cantwell, at least seven students had applied by Tuesday night — enough to fill the commission.

The pair’s email also clarified the status of the UC during the transition.

“The UC will continue to exist as a legal entity in the next few weeks, but as per the referendum, the UC Constitution and Bylaws have been completely deleted, and the UC will be dissolved and replaced in an official ceremony by May 8,” they wrote.

de Kanter and Cantwell also alerted students that $10 in Crimson Cash had been awarded to each of them as a result of the UC’s dissolution. The funds were disbursed from a sum of $125,325.44 that was withheld from the UC for the duration of an audit of its finances.

House committees also received $500, while the remaining $50,000 was allocated toward club funding, according to de Kanter and Cantwell.

—Staff writer J. Sellers Hill can be reached at sellers.hill@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @SellersHill.

—Staff writer Mert Geyiktepe can be reached at mert.geyiktepe@thecrimson.com.

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Emmett E. de Kanter ’24