Nearly 30 years ago, the Harvard Student Assembly wrote to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences:
“Student participation in College governance needs to be better coordinated and more directed. Harvard undergraduates need a representative student government to help accomplish these goals and to speak as a voice for student concerns. These needs can only be satisfied if the current system of College governance is reformed and if the revised structure includes a representative student government.”
In 1980, Dean of Harvard College John B. Fox, Jr. appointed the Committee to Review College Governance, charged with determining both the strengths and weaknesses of College governance, and considering reforms that might improve the quality of College life. Professor of Biology John Dowling chaired this committee. The full report can be viewed here.
Faculty legislation created the Harvard-Radcliffe Undergraduate Council in 1982. Its Constitution was ratified by a student referendum. The first Council had about 80 members, a Chair, and a Vice Chair.
The Undergraduate Council funded organizations with the student fee proceeds, planned social events, and sent representatives to student-faculty committees.
In December 1995, the Undergraduate Council passed a number of internal reforms. One of the most notable was the creation of a President and Vice-President, popularly elected by the student body at large.
Sixteen pairs of undergraduates have since served in these positions:
In 2008, Dean of the Faculty Michael Smith appointed a second committee, chaired again by John Dowling to review the UC’s place in the University, 25 years after it was created. The second Dowling Report affirmed the core mission and role of the Undergraduate Council, while providing recommendations for reforms in the Council and Faculty to better support student involvement in governance of Harvard College.
The Council passed major internal reforms in May 2009, revising committee structure, increasing the number of representatives, and committing to better support and communicate with the student body.
The Harvard Undergraduate Council is now more than 25 years old, fulfilling much of the promise of the first Dowling Report, providing opportunities for undergraduates to enhance College Life and advocate for changes in curricular, extracurricular, and residential policy.
Established in 1996 to honor the work of Former CCL Chair Rudd Coffey, and in 2001, the work of SAC Chair John Paul Rollert, this award goes to a Council senior who has performed outstanding work on the UC.
The funding for this award was generously provided by UC alumnus John Paul Rollert, and the prize is awarded by the UC President each year.