The Harvard Graduate Council held its first public meeting of the academic year Monday to outline its priorities for the upcoming semester, which include collaborating with Harvard’s graduate student union, strengthening communication between the Council and different University agencies, and finding ways to better support alumni.
The Council, which conducted business virtually last academic year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, held its first meeting in person and broadcast over Zoom. Per Council tradition, the meeting began with a walking tour of the host graduate school, which on Monday was the Graduate School of Design.
While some representatives convened physically in the Graduate School of Design’s Drucker Gallery, those who opted to attend virtually were projected at the front of the room to accommodate the “weird new reality,” as Council President and Medical School student Peter Choi said.
Matthew R. Volpe, a Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers liaison for the Council, said during the meeting that he hopes HGC and the union will collaborate in the following months. He noted that as a student group that receives funding from the University, HGC can serve as a helpful resource to the union.
“There are a lot of things that HGSU can do because we are an independent organization — we are not a student group that gets funding from the University. Members pay dues for our operations,” Volpe said. “But there are also a lot of things that HGC and other types of student groups can do that we can’t do because we aren’t a Harvard student organization.”
Volpe also urged graduate students to alert their peers of the strike authorization vote — which opened Sept. 13 and remains open. Two-thirds of the union members must vote yes to give the union’s Bargaining Committee authorization to call for a strike.
HGC Chair of Advocacy Xavier I. Sayeed outlined additional Council advocacy initiatives for the academic year, which include creating advocacy-oriented Council task forces, pressuring the University to create alumni emails, and mulling shopping week — a course preview tradition under review by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences that graduate student workers have said causes job insecurity.
Choi elaborated on the ongoing progress with securing fully operational alumni emails for Harvard graduates, an initiative that began months ago. In response to the University’s decision to discontinue alumni email addresses last year, the Council drafted a memorandum in favor of fully functioning alumni email addresses, citing an inauspicious job market caused by the pandemic.
Choi said that the University plans to assemble a task force to consider alumni email addresses and other ways to support their alumni.
“The Harvard University administration has agreed to get rid of the alumni.harvard.edu emails because it was a forwarding system and not an inbox storage system — it’s a very outdated thing that our peer institutions don’t use,” Choi said. “Right now what Harvard’s trying to do is figure out exactly how to handle the situation.”
Despite the technological challenges of coordinating a hybrid meeting with Council members both in person and on Zoom, some representatives — including Chair of Information Nima S. Zamanpour — were able to make light of the situation.
“Welcome to dystopia,” Zamanpour said with a laugh.
—Staff writer Isabella B. Cho can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @izbcho.