Thanks to an additional $75,000 in funding from the College, student groups will literally be covering more ground and taking their pursuits to new heights this year. Tuesday’s announcement that a new financial initiative will funnel an additional $75,000 to student group transportation costs and House formals demonstrates the College’s expanding commitment to students and the Undergraduate Council’s ability to advocate on behalf of undergraduates.
Transportation costs are a massive burden on many student groups, and are often the limiting factor in determining in which activities students can participate. This additional funding not only will allow groups to engage with communities outside of Harvard, but will also serve a subsidy-like purpose in enabling undergraduates without money to spare to travel with their student groups.
The UC has certainly had its share of obstacles in negotiating with the Dean of the College recently, given the three-dean turnover in the last few years. Managing a relationship with the Dean’s office and maintaining a council through three different deans of Harvard College might have made it difficult to even keep funding constant. The recent boost in support of student-life events, however, shows a commitment to raising the financial bar even during turbulent times. This additional funding not only represents hard work on the student end, but it also serves as a ringing endorsement of new Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds. Making a difference in the day-to-day lives of students requires that a dean make conscious and sizeable decisions instead of passing the buck. For taking student concerns seriously and acting upon proposals instead of pushing them from one committee to another, Hammonds should be commended.
But with any large sum of money comes the necessity that these funds are handled deftly and with the best interests of students in mind. This issue is particularly pertinent in a case like this—where a significant amount of additional funding could go to HoCos. This money can only be used to its full potential if Harvard students take seriously the role of HoCos. Currently, HoCo election protocol varies from house to house and is often erratic and haphazard. More residents of the houses must be willing to participate in their HoCos and determine how to best spend this money. Whether this means standardizing the HoCo election process or allowing for more non-officer input, a larger group of students per house should become involved to best spend the cash in HoCos’ deeper pockets.
While this additional money is certainly going to aid student groups and boost house life, it should not be considered a complete remedy to the debilitated state of social life in the houses. The UC should resume the fight for bringing back party grants. A formal cannot replace an inclusive room party: a vital social commodity on a campus dominated by private events. Diverting more funding toward student groups and HoCos is one step in the right direction, but the UC should resume its push toward regaining lost social ground.