Harvard Undergraduate Council

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Harvard Undergraduate Council, Inc.
InstitutionHarvard University
LocationCambridge, Massachusetts
PresidentJames Mathew '21
Vice presidentIfeoma White-Thorpe '21
General secretaryNicholas Brennan '23
TreasurerNoah Harris '22

The Harvard Undergraduate Council, Inc., colloquially known as "the UC," is the representative student government of Harvard College. The Council was established in 1982 by a vote of the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences and student referendum. The Council is responsible for the administration of student services, campus-wide events, and student advocacy at Harvard. There are 51 undergraduate students at any given time serving on the Council: a president, vice president, 3 from each of the 12 residential houses and 4 freshman districts. Students from the Dudley Cooperative also have a representative on the Council.[1] The UC also collaborates with the Harvard Graduate Council, the representative student government for the twelve graduate and professional schools of Harvard University.


In the year 1980, the Dean of Harvard College John B. Fox initiated a committee that was to be called the Committee to Review College Governance, chaired by John Dowling, who was a professor of biology at the College. This committee was tasked with the duty of determining the strengths and the weaknesses of the present system of governance at the College and of considering any needed reforms that might improve the quality of college life at Harvard.[2]

This committee's deliberations eventually led to the passage of legislation from the faculty, a bill which is created the Harvard-Radcliffe Undergraduate Council in 1982. The constitution of the Council was ratified by a student body referendum in the same year. The first Council had roughly 80 members, and these members would elect a chair and a vice-chair to oversee the Council. The Undergraduate Council funded undergraduate organizations with the proceeds of an opt-out fee collected from the tuition bill of each registered student, planned social events and services, and sent representatives to student-faculty committees. The Council today still carries out these duties and largely gets its revenue from the same original source of student tuition.

In 1995, the Undergraduate Council passed a number of internal reforms, the most notable of which was the creation of the roles President and Vice President, more closely modeling an actual government. In the year of 2002, in a symbolic gesture to honor the advancement of gender relations on campus since the integration of Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges, the Council voted to strike "Radcliffe" from its name to simply become the "Harvard Undergraduate Council".[3]

In 2019, the Undergraduate Council passed a package of reforms that modified the structure of standing committees. The Council retains the roles of President and Vice President; in addition, there are Chairs and Vice Chairs of the expanded sub-committees, through which most of the work on the Council is done. The Council's standing committees include: the Academic Life Committee; the Finance Committee; the First-Year Class Committee; the Health, Safety, and Wellness Committee; the Social and Residential Life Committee; and the Rules Committee.[4]


Founded with the purpose of representing undergraduates at Harvard to the administration, faculty, and wider community, the Undergraduate Council is chiefly responsible for advocacy on behalf of students and funding student activities on campus. The Council operates with a budget that is primarily dispensed to student organizations, but it also funds social events and student initiatives. The vast majority of the UC's funding comes from the composite of opt-out fees collected from the tuition bill of each student. As the sole representative student government, the UC provides student services like most student unions and also performs advocacy on behalf of the student body.

Since administrators at the College typically see the Undergraduate Council as the representative of the student body, these administrators often consult with the Council for all student issues, and UC leaders have advocated for increased student input on higher-level administrative decisions.[5] Student-faculty committees have been founded on a number of campus issues with the joint cooperation of the administration and the Undergraduate Council. The Undergraduate Council fields applications from the student body for places in these committees and makes its decisions based on relevant experiences and perceived passion for respective roles. Chairs and vice chairs of certain UC committees sometimes sit on the relevant student-faculty committees to engage with faculty, administrators, and other students. Current student-faculty committees and committees with student representatives include:


  • Committee on Undergraduate Education - a committee for discussing curricular change in the College, comprising 5 undergraduates, 5 faculty members, and chaired by the Dean of the College
  • Committee on General Education - a committee charged with generating and maintaining the new General Education curriculum, overseeing policy, petitions, and academic credit issues
  • Committee on Writing and Speaking - a committee dedicated to improving the quality of writing and speaking of undergraduates in the College
  • Educational Policy Committee - an advisory committee mostly comprising deans and faculty that has oversight on all areas of the undergraduate curriculum and can pass advisory legislation to that effect
  • Committee on the Library - a committee charged with advising the library system on potential changes or improvements
  • Student Advisory Boards for Arts and Humanities, Social Science, and Science - three academic committees in which the Divisional Deans can keep in touch with the concerns of students in the relevant concentrations

Student Life and Student Advisement

  • Committee on Student Life - a committee for discussing the recognition of new student groups and a number of other issues, including changes to Harvard's residential system and many other aspects of student life, with the committee comprising 5 undergraduates, 5 faculty members, and chaired by the Associate Dean of the College
  • College University Health Services Committee - a committee responsible for coordinating and improving the activities of the many departments of Harvard University focused on student well-being, including the Center for Wellness & Health, the Bureau of Study Counsel, the Harvard College Women’s Center, the Office of Accessible Education, and more
  • Campus Safety Committee - a committee for discussing safety issues on Harvard's campus, comprising undergraduates, residential life staff, deans, administrators, police, the Women's Center, and more
  • Advisory Committee to the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response - a committee dealing with issues of sexual assault on Harvard's campus, overseeing the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (OSAPR)
  • Harvard University Dining Services Student Advisory Committee - a committee charged with advising HUDS on the state of residential dining services, suggesting improvements, evaluating student satisfaction, and serving as liaisons between HUDS and the student body
  • Committee on Advising and Counseling - a committee overseeing the various advising and counseling offices, dealing with the Peer Advising system, the freshman advising system, the sophomore advising system, and the concentration advising system


  • Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility - a committee, with some alumni members, responsible for making recommendations on how the University should vote its shares on social responsibility resolutions, such as divestment from organizations which noticeably breach the ethical standards of Harvard
  • Committee on Athletic Sports - a committee responsible for enhancing the presence and enjoyment of athletics at the College, comprising the Athletics Director, House Masters, faculty, and undergraduates
  • Commission of Inquiry - a body created to deal with inquiries, suggestions, or complaints brought to it by faculty or students concerning matters of fact and policy within the purview of the faculty

All of these committees meet during the school term only.[6]

The UC also interfaces with its graduate counterpart, the Harvard Graduate Council.


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ http://oasis.lib.harvard.edu/oasis/deliver/~hua04000
  3. ^ http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/4/2/council-removes-radcliffe-from-title-the/
  4. ^ "UC Changes Committee Structure in Unanimous Vote | News | The Harvard Crimson". www.thecrimson.com. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  5. ^ http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2011/11/8/UC-meeting-lee-modern/
  6. ^ http://uc.fas.harvard.edu/index.php/business/committees/fas-committees/

External links[edit]