For the first time in its 300-year history, Harvard University has elected a Black man as its student body president.
20-year-old government studies major Noah Harris is a junior in Dunster House, who also serves as a co-chair of the Undergraduate Council’s Black Caucus.
Although two other Black people have previously headed Harvard’s Undergraduate Council, Harris is the only Black man to have ever been elected to the role by the entire student body of the prestigious university.
You can find out more about Harris’s story in the following clip:
Speaking with CBS Boston, Harris stated that ‘me being a Black man from Mississippi is not something that I run from’, adding:
It was a historic election and for it to come in a year of so many racial injustices with George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and people who were taken from our communities, it makes it that much more of a statement on the part of Harvard and the student body.
It’s a message to the university that we really have to be conscious about the decisions that we’re making and how we’re standing with all of our students of color and making sure that their college experience and just their livelihoods are as good as possible when a university like Harvard has so many resources.
Harris has faced additional challenges during his campaign due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has of course affected how he’s been able to interact with his fellow students.
Rather than knocking on doors and distributing flyers, Harris made use of social media and a grassroots texting campaign to get his message across, eventually winning what he has described as being Harvard’s ‘first virtual campaign’.
Harris will serve alongside his vice president Jenny Gan, with the pair emphasising ‘Diversity & Inclusion’, ‘Health & Wellness’ and ‘Student Life’ in their campaign plan.
As per their campaign website, they intend to ‘hold Harvard accountable for its ‘commitment’ to anti-racism’, and will also take ‘proactive steps to improve our community that struggles with sexual assault and mental health’.
As per USA Today, Cary Gabay was the first Black man to take up this position at Harvard, after having been chosen by council members in 1993. This was before the voting process changed to include the whole student body in 1995.
Gabay sadly died in 2015 after he was caught in the crossfire of a shooting in New York. In 1999, Fentrice Driskell became the first Black woman to be elected to this role. Driskell now serves in the Florida House of Representatives, and has recently been elected to a second term.
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