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The $58,000 Question

By Thomas H. Howlett

Undergraduate Council Chairman Michael G. Colantuono '83 admits he has "come around 180 degrees" on a substantive and symbolic issue--one which may provide the new government with its first sticky dispute at tomorrow night's meeting.

Colantuono was one of several council members who two weeks ago proposed that the body assume independent control of its $58.000 budget, and transfer the money to a local bank where it could collect interest.

Harvard currently uses the interest from budgets including the student government's to defray costs for accounting and other financial services, preventing financial growth but easing auditing and accounting concerns.

Recently, however, conversations with members of the Radcliffe Union of Students, the Radcliffe funded student government which keeps its money in University accounts, have convinced Colantuono and Council Treasurer Peter N. Smith '83 that seeking to remove the money would be unwise.

Fears of future embezzlement and costly auditing, which is currently provided free of charge by the University are the prime reasons Colantuono and Smith now favor leaving the money where it is they said this week.

"The expense of an auditor will certainly eat up all the interest we'd earn and may eat up more than all of it," Colantuono said.

Smith also said he would discourage a move to gain independent control, even though the Glee Club, whose money be also manages, maintains its funds out side Harvard.

"The difference there is that Glee Club is 60 people who know me, but the treasurer of the Undergraduate Council has to be responsible to everyone who's paid their term bill," Smith said.

Although the two officers who have discussed the issue with RUS officers and College officials have firm opinions on the matter, debate may still be lively at Sunday's meeting in the Science Center.

Council member J. French Wall '83 remains committed to the idea of transferring the funds, calling it "really irresponsible not to have [the budget] invested somewhere where we'll be making money off of it."

Wall will seek to assuage concerns about accountability and high priced accounting by pointing to his experience as president of the Gay Students Association, which he said competently managed three separate outside bank accounts.

"The main points that we're not making money, and that's stupid," he said.

Some members have also discussed the symbolic merit of having an account separate from the University's, as a number of Ivy League and other student governments do.

But there is concern that what could be gained in terms of clearly establishing the council's jurisdiction over its funds may not outweigh the risk of irking the Faculty, which could withhold funds collected in future years.

"If we misuse the money, they'll just take it off the term bill next term," said Sesha Pratap '84, chairman of the Council's communications and finance committee.

Even if the council chooses to go against the recommendation of its chairman, a rapid switch for the funds and the resulting profits are unlikely.

College officials said this week that a drive to remove the money from University cotters would be a matter for the new student faculty. Committee on College Life to discuss. The Committee consists of council members and masters and is chaired by Dean of the College John B. Fox '59.

Fox and Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III declined to say whether or not a decision from the College Life Committee would then require approval by the Faculty, which had to okay the inclusion of the $10 undergraduate council fee on student term bills.

Because any change would be "months down the road." Colantuono believes the council should seek alternative sources of income--alumni fundraising and other schemes--to bolster its treasury, instead of pursuing investment strategies, with a bank of money market.

"Clearly financial independence is pretty meaningless. If we don't have financial independence in the long run." he said.

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