Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

2023 Student Recommendations on University Support for Student Leadership at Harvard

Recommendations on University Support for Student Leadership at Harvard

By Daniella Berrospi, Christopher Doyle, Chelsea Guo, Oliver Hirshland, Max Ingersoll, Marco Joven Domínguez, Laiba Khan, Eliana Lee, Talia Levitt, Harold Peon, North Peters,  Maya Simkowitz, Sophia Wang, and Athena Ye


Replacing Student Leadership Forum with individual or small group meetings

The student leadership forum is unpopular among student leaders and splitting it up into more targeted components could be beneficial.


An easy and accessible way to reach the DSO on a personal level throughout the school year. 

Rather than communicating through emails and official guidelines, it might be more beneficial to utilize ways in which we can talk genuinely and personally about individual needs during the school year. It’s still not clear to us as students how an organization can actually build a personal relationship with the DSO and utilize their resources. We mentioned individual and small group meetings in the points above; however, we would love to see these meetings continued throughout the semester. 


Clearer Division of Labor / Decision Making Between Student Leaders and DSO

Who has the authority to do what?

There should be a clearer outline of the processes and possibilities for a constructive “partnership” with the DSO. Currently, student leaders are unclear of the formal pathways of reaching the DSO; student leaders would like further elucidation on the separation of authority: how much power do student leaders have in relation to the DSO in regards to a plethora of situations such as funding, events, and Trademark concerns regarding intellectual property? 


There are power dynamics between student leaders and staff in the DSO that should be established more explicitly. It is unclear as to when students can reach out to the DSO office and expect advice and action versus when student organizations are directed by the office without proper input from its own members


Transparency on Restrictions and Use of the Endowment

Though Harvard already publishes a thorough financial report at the end of every fiscal year that is available to the general public, it can be difficult for students to take in the complex way in which information is communicated. With recent changes to the student organization funding model, clarity on how much of these funds are used for student groups and student activities could ease concerns and increase confidence in the institution.


Revision of Student Organization Funding under the HUA

With decreased funding to the HUA (when compared to its predecessor, the UC), many student organizations have been forced to adapt to significant cuts in their budget. This affects organizations whose focus is not on social events especially severely, as the HUA’s strict budget guidelines focused on social events leave them without a source for reliable institutional funding.


Transparency on Decisions and Seeking Student Input

Oftentimes, it can feel like big decisions are made by the University without a lot of clarity about who is making these decisions and why. We would love to see more clarity about when decisions like these are in discussion and inclusion of ways in which student voices could be heard.


Additionally, it would be helpful for the DSO to communicate explicitly what its key metrics are for measuring the wellbeing of students. There is lots of rhetoric about making Harvard better for students, but it’s not clear how this is being done or what better means. Also in terms of students working with the DSO, to make student life better, this would help create a shared language which could help enable collaboration. 


Furthermore, asking the student body about how it defines wellbeing and what issues or factors are most important––and factoring these in to the DSO’s core metrics––could help us feel more included in this process as right now, some of us feel somewhat jaded, pessimistic, and alienated from these efforts.

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