Following a meeting Monday with Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith, top Undergraduate Council leaders said that their request for a 50 percent increase in funding for student activities this year from the University was denied, even as Smith voiced support for their efforts and discussed funding possibilities for the future.
UC President Gus A. Mayopoulos '15 and Vice President Sietse K. Goffard '15 insisted that Smith’s decision was not a setback, saying that they will work with the Office of Student Life and relevant administrators to gather data requested by Smith, as well as reach out to possible alumni and corporate sponsors.
“According to Dean Smith, we won’t see a dime from the University this year,” Mayopoulos said. He added that Smith “was very receptive to the fact that there was not sufficient funding [for student activities],” but “was very clear that Harvard cannot financially afford to support student co-curricular activities at this time.”
Goffard and Mayopoulos first detailed plans in February to request an additional $250,000 in funding for the UC, a figure and an initiative that have since become one of the most recognizable pushes by their administration. The pair met with University President Drew G. Faust later that month to discuss ways to raise the Council’s current annual budget of about $500,000 and were directed to speak with Smith.
Mayopoulos and Goffard said that Smith spoke “honest[ly]” on Monday about FAS budget restraints and what they described to be the University’s financial transparency problems. The dean also suggested that both the UC and the administration need to do a better job “getting their houses in order,” according to Goffard.
Mayopoulos spoke about “a lot of confusion” that exists in knowing the amount of University resources currently allocated to certain student activities or departments, such as the Athletic Department or the Phillips Brooks House Association. He added that Smith expressed desire for the UC to gather more data about exact sources and amounts of funding distributed to various departments that support student extracurriculars.
The UC has been vocal to point out that the only funding it receives is through an annual fee on undergraduate term bills that has not increased since 2006, despite rapid growth in the number of student groups.
Goffard said that although Smith’s response was reasonable, it “doesn’t make sense” that the University is not able to fund the UC.
Goffard said the University is “turning a blind eye” to the fact that certain clubs have to ask large dues from their members, while Mayopoulos said that it is “disrespectful” to undergraduates and against Harvard’s values that they not be ensuring every student, regardless of socioeconomic status, “has the opportunity to pursue the extra curriculars that they want to do.”
Although they said Smith was more receptive to a possible term bill increase, the UC leaders said they will continue to refuse to advocate for raising the fee unless the University agrees to offset some of the costs.
Mayopoulos and Goffard said they also discussed with Smith the possibility of acquiring funds through the capital campaign, which has raised $3.7 billion to date.
Mayopoulos said that he was told the money was “not available for present use” and will not be used “anytime in the near future” for the UC budget.
For Goffard and Mayopoulos, however, their goals going forward will remain unchanged. They said they will collaborate with a “working group” of deans from the Office of Student Life, whom they say support their budget goals, as well as College officials to acquire the data Smith wants.
In addition, the pair said they will consider more seriously seeking donations from alumni and corporate sponsors, and are willing “to do whatever it takes.”
FAS spokesperson Jeff Neal wrote in an email that Dean Smith “enjoyed” meeting with UC leaders, and “like many faculty, students and administrators across Harvard, he and they are all working to improve the undergraduate student experience.”
—Staff writer Noah J. Delwiche can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ndelwiche.