On Eve of Recall Vote, Embattled HUA Co-President Breaks Silence


Updated April 10, 2024, at 11:14 p.m.

Hours before students will vote in a referendum to recall embattled Harvard Undergraduate Association Co-President John S. Cooke ’25, Cooke rejected the misconduct allegations against him in his first public statement in two weeks.

Cooke broke his silence with an op-ed published in The Crimson on Wednesday, dismissing the misconduct allegations against him as “dirty campaign tricks.”

“I unequivocally reject these rumors. Those close to me can attest that misconduct — of any kind — is antithetical to my character,” he wrote.


“The mere existence of these rumors saddens me deeply and has taken a considerable toll on my mental health and well-being,” he added.

The allegations against Cooke surfaced after the undergraduate board of the Fox Club — a single-gender Harvard final club — voted to remove Cooke as a member as a result of the allegations. The recall effort to oust Cooke from the HUA began just days after The Crimson reported on his expulsion from the Fox.

Until the publication of the op-ed, Cooke had repeatedly declined interview requests and opportunities to comment about his removal from the club. He also did not address the nature of the misconduct allegations against him in the op-ed or in a brief statement Wednesday afternoon.

“I would like to direct everyone to read my full Op-ed,” Cooke wrote. “It is my hope that the student body will allow me to finish my term and complete the work that I was elected to do.”

The Harvard Feminist Coalition, the group that initally circulated the petition to recall Cooke from office, slammed The Harvard Crimson over its decision to publish Cooke’s op-ed.

“We are extremely disappointed in the Crimson’s callous decision to publish an op-ed authored by John Cooke,” the HFC wrote in an Instagram post on Wednesday. “There is never an obligation to platform anyone with misconduct allegations.”

“The Crimson has made it clear who they stand with,” the HFC added. “The Crimson has betrayed survivors.”

Crimson President J. Sellers Hill ’25 wrote in a statement that the “Editorial Board’s decision to publish op-eds is not and has never been an endorsement of the viewpoints they advance.”

“We aim to inform our readers by providing them perspectives relevant to campus discourse with the understanding that they will read them critically and judge their merits for themselves,” Hill added.

The op-ed came just hours into the 24-hour campaigning period ahead of Thursday’s recall election. The recall election is set to open at midnight on Thursday, and all undergraduate students will be eligible to cast a vote for 24 hours until voting ends at midnight on Friday.

A two-thirds majority of those who vote in the election is needed to remove Cooke from office, according to the HUA’s constitution and bylaws.

Cooke wrote in the op-ed that he hoped to defeat the recall effort and finish his term as HUA Co-President, which is scheduled to end on April 20.

“I’m not worried, and I’m going to stand strong,” Cooke wrote. “I am confident that the truth will prevail. I am confident that the student body will recognize these rumors as baseless.”

—Staff writer Cam N. Srivastava can be reached at Follow him on X @camsrivastava.

—Staff writer William Y. Tan can be reached at Follow him on X @william_y_tan.