College Will Prioritize Safe Travel in Allocating Funds

The Office of Student Life will prioritize funding domestic student travel that it determines aligns with the “College’s mission” when it allocates $50,000 in grants to traveling students and student groups this academic year, according to the grant application that opened this week.

The grants, offered through the Dean of Harvard College Student Life Fund, are part of a pilot program to increase funding for domestic student travel by $30,000. Last year, administrators offered traveling student groups $20,000 through the Fund, but Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana increased that sum this semester in response to the recommendations of a working group on student group transportation safety.

College administrators created the working group last spring after an undergraduate, Angela R. Mathew, died in a car crash while returning to campus from a mock trial competition in February. After consulting with Khurana last month, the students and administrators in the working group determined the criteria for allocating the additional funds.

According to a description of the Student Life Fund posted on the OSL’s website, administrators will prioritize proposed group travel activities that are “aligned with the College’s Mission to support experiences that foster intellectual, social, and personal transformation,” a reference to language Khurana has used to describe his vision for the College. It does not, however, detail what such travel might look like.

The application asks students to explain how their travel plans align with the missions of the College and their student group. Acknowledging that this is an “open question,” Associate Dean of Student Life David R. Friedrich said he is “interested to hear what students say” in response.

According to the posted description, the College also plans to prioritize funding student groups that “support efforts to utilize safer travel options”—namely, public or charter transportation. It will also put travel plans that fall “within the current scope of an organization’s travel activities” first. Friedrich said the working group put that stipulation in place to make sure that the funding increase is used to encourage student groups to travel more safely, rather than to travel more.

"The intent of this money is not to finance more student travel; it's to finance safer alternatives for travel that's already being done," said Brett M. Biebelberg ’16, a member of the working group and an Undergraduate Council representative for Quincy House.

A group of administrators and students, including members of the working group, will review applications. Chosen student organizations must register their travel plans with administrators to receive funding, and members of groups that rent a vehicle to drive must take a driver safety course online.

This semester’s application will remain open until Oct. 26. In addition to other student groups, individual students traveling to academic conferences to present research and club sports teams are eligible to apply.

—Staff writer Steven S. Lee contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Madeline R. Conway can be reached at mconway@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @MadelineRConway.

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