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UC Expands Bicycle Subsidy Program

Sunday Night with the UC
Catherine L. Zhang '19 and Nicholas D. Boucher '19 preside over an Undergraduate Council Meeting.

UPDATED: March 26, 2018 at 6:50 p.m.

The Undergraduate Council voted Sunday to expand its new bicycle subsidy program after close to 200 students signed up for the program in under one week.

The initiative, to which the Council allocated $3,000 at last week’s meeting, provides some low-income students with a $50 subsidy to spend on bicycles, scooters, and skateboards. To qualify for the subsidy, undergraduates must be eligible for the Student Events Fund, which allows students with demonstrated financial need to attend campus events free of charge.

According to Student Life Committee Chair Arnav Agrawal ’20, a Crimson comper, 60 students signed up for the subsidy within two hours of its debut and, by the end of the week, 178 had signed up.

“We believe that this is fundamentally very, very important,” Agrawal said. “These bicycles will act as physical evidence, as physical manifestations, of this Council’s belief that being first-gen or low-income on this campus should never be a burden.”

The legislation was primarily driven and sponsored by Pforzheimer House Representative Rainbow Yeung ’19, an inactive Crimson blog editor. According to Elm Yard Representative Emma L. Robertson ’21, Yeung acted as the “architect and leader of the legislation.”

Winthrop House Representative Evan M. Bonsall ’19 proposed an amendment expanding the program to Mather and Dunster Houses. Last week’s legislation only funded subsidies for undergraduates living in the Quad, the Dudley Co-Op, and off-campus housing.

“Dunster and Mather are just about as far away from most buildings where people have class as the Quad are,” Bonsall said. “And I think that it’s only fair that we offer the same benefit to... low-income students, students that are eligible for SEF, as we are providing to students in the Quad.”

The amended legislation would spend three of the UC’s $3,000 “burst packs” on additional subsidies for bicycle purchases.

Some representatives pushed back, though, arguing that including River Houses could jeopardize the program’s financial stability.

“I think the slippery slope argument actually does really apply here,” Eliot House Representative Taylor D. Marquis ’18 said. “Dunster is just across the street from the Lev[erett] towers, so I don’t see how that 20 feet makes any difference.”

“I think that right now we need to focus on the students in the Quad,” he added.

UC Treasurer Nadine M. Khoury ’20 raised concerns about adding three burst packs of funding to the program before asking administrators to consider footing some of the cost.

“We bring it to life and then once it succeeds, we say listen, this is something that is succeeding: instead of pouring money into random things, pour some money into this,” Khoury said.

The amendment ultimately passed 21-12.

Agrawal added that Crimson Bikes, a local bicycle store, has shown interest in partnering with the Council to further reduce the price of bikes for qualifying students.

Also at the meeting, the Council voted to provide $3,500 for an event called “Can We Reconcile Justice and Forgiveness?” that will focus on “institutional justice and personal forgiveness.” The event will feature a victim of Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics coach who was sentenced in January to 40 to 175 years in Michigan state prison after pleading guilty to sexual assault.

The funding will come out of the UC’s $30,000 “Grant for an Open Harvard College,” which seeks to promote student-driven programs that fall under one of the Council’s “compelling interests” of mental health, sexual assault and harassment, race relations, and social spaces.

UC Vice President Nicholas D. Boucher ’19 also said at the meeting that he is working with administrators to try to increase funding for the Council’s Finance Committee.

The committee, which currently doles out $300,000 to eligible student groups, has faced a budget shortfall throughout the semester. Last week, with a 43 percent across-the-board grant cut looming, the Council voted to allocate $6,000 from its Emergency Fund to help shore up the committee’s budget.

“We are currently talking with the administration to try and figure out what we can do for subsequent years,” Boucher said. “The idea is that would alleviate some of the financial stressors that have been placed on [the committee].”

—Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at jonah.berger@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonahberger98.

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