House Committees Challenge Funding Cap

Anna Lonyai

"Lily, Rosemary and the Jack McCambridge?" Justin P. Haan ’05, far right, and Jack P. McCambridge ’06, center, celebrate Bob Dylan's upcoming concert at last night's council meeting.

Several House Committee (HoCos) members were on-hand at the Undergraduate Council meeting last night as the Council debated placing a cap on the allocation of funds to HoCos.

The HoCo members challenged the initial $1,500 cap—very low considering that several HoCos received more than double that amount last spring—and pushed the Council to fatten the allocation to $3,500.

In past years, HoCos had received only around $1,000 per semester. “This is a transition period,” Undergraduate Council President Matthew W. Mahan ’05 said. “We have tried to make the allocation much more flexible, recognizing that HoCos do good work.”

Mahan said that the initial package—which goes into effect immediately and is retroactive to the beginning of the semester—marks the third largest allocation to HoCos in the Council’s history.

Under the initial legislation, each House can claim up to $1,500 in a variety of specific ways: stein clubs; casual parties hosted in common House space; funds for house social life or spirit, such as movie screenings, barbeques and IM T-shirts; and capital improvements.

By dividing House funds into categories, the council hoped to “encourage diverse activity” on campus, according to Campus Life Committee Chair Christina L. Adams ’06.

Complaints from Lowell and Leverett HoCo members about the initial $1,500 ceiling spurred many council members to suggest expanding the funds.

Lowell HoCo Co-Chair Todd van Stolk-Riley ’06 said he was concerned that campus-wide events such as last week’s Jim Breuer comedy show and the Bob Dylan concert slotted for Nov. 21 have taken precedence over funding HoCos.

“From the House perspective, we would like to see more UC support in the coming semester as to the events that we put together,” Stolk-Riley said.

He said the $3,333 that Lowell received last semester from the council had allowed its HoCo to host its Bacchanalia and other events, marking a “180-degree turn-around” in Lowell House life.

After much heated debate, the council moved to add $2,000 to the initial $1,500 package. But HoCos may receive this additional money only by applying as student groups to the Council Grant Fund, which frequently allots less than applicants request.

Council Vice President Michael R. Blickstead ’05 said that the need to cap HoCo funding was the “opportunity cost” of allocating $45,000 for the Breuer show and Dylan concert.

Mahan defended the expense of the comedy show and concert as efforts to address complaints from last year’s seniors that Harvard lacks big social events. Appearances by celebrities like Dylan, Mahan said, could become defining moments in an undergraduate career.

“There’s something to be said for community-wide events,” Mahan said. “In the short run this may tie our hands but it was worth doing.”

In other business, Adams and Student Affairs Committee Chairman Matthew J. Glazer ’06 introduced a temporary solution to help the Finance Committee (FiCom) sift through a slew of student group applications.

To take some of the burden off of FiCom, Adams and Glazer proposed a tri-weekly rotation, by which all council members would participate in the grant approval process.