Harvard Leader of the Week: UC Edition
For this week’s installment of Harvard Leader of the Week, we reached out to each of the tickets running for President and Vice President of the UC and are publishing their responses in the order we received them. The first ticket is Shaiba Rather and Danny Banks, junior social studies concentrators living in Cabot and Dunster Houses respectively.
What got you interested in UC leadership?
Leadership of the Undergraduate Council requires both energy and vision; so often the Council is energized on issues of import, but fails to integrate this energy into a broader vision for Harvard College. Over the past year, we’ve led the Council on issues ranging from Halal food in dining halls, to campus wide events like Harvard Oasis or Haunted Hall, to social advocacy for fairer practices amongst recognized and unrecognized groups. Our primary focus has been building a vision of an open Harvard: inclusive, safe, fun. So, if the question is “how we became interested” the answer is: We’ve been pushing the Council in the right direction for two semesters. With the right leadership, we can capture the momentum on social space, mental health and sexual assault prevention.
Who on campus do you look to for inspiration?
Danny: At the end of a long day, I trek back to Dunster (Shaiba always rolls her eyes: “Dunster isn’t far. Try living in the Quad.”). After spending a year in the Inn at Harvard together, the sophomores of Dunster House are close friends and confidants. We party together; we spend long nights in the “lib”; we love endlessly our community and our home. To remind myself that Harvard is only as strong as its students are happy, I look to you, Dunster House.
Shaiba: More than just my friends, I search for inspiration in my peers. It’s quite empowering to see people sharing their narratives, letting their guards down and sending one strong, clear message: Yes, you can do it! The can-do attitude in Harvard College is contagious and it drives me everyday.
What is the biggest change to the UC you’d make or the most important project you’d undertake if elected?
When was the last time you felt like a Harvard student? Not a member of this group, or that group. Not a student in Dunster or Cabot. Not a physics or an English concentrator. But, just a plain and simple Harvard student?
This semester social, mental and sexual health have suddenly become the issues. They aren’t entirely separate, however, and are instead manifestations of a sad reality on campus: We don’t feel like we belong. We’re always guests in another’s space, we feel unwelcome or unwilling to seek counseling because of flawed mental health policies, we feel unsafe due to the repeated failure of the University to truly address the cultural and institutional roots of sexual assault. Our main project is to recenter the vision of the Undergraduate Council to be an active, goal-oriented advocate for student health on campus. The voice of the student body has gone too long unanswered. We look forward to sharing our step by step plan on how to address these problems. Visit our website shaibaanddanny.com!
How do you characterize your leadership styles?
Unlike any other ticket, we’ve been working side-by-side for a full year on every major project on the UC. We’ve both served as co-chairs of the Student Initiatives Committee, presented proposals for bystander intervention for sexual assault prevention to the Administration, planned events like Harvard Oasis or Haunted Hall, run the Harvard Project, helped facilitate the Blank Party and organized three Neighborhood Concerts this Fall, to name a few. We’re results-driven and prioritize empowering others to take ownership over collective goals.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Danny: In love, passionate about work and still killing it on the dance-floor.
Shaiba: The cool aunt, the one who travels and has the baddest collection of scarves; of course, still in the City of Brotherly Love .