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`Billionaire Boys' Club' in Action

By Jeffrey C. Wu, Council Finance Committee

It's been called the Undergraduate Council's billionaire boys' club; it's almost exclusively male, and its members meet behind closed doors to determine the fate of more than two-thirds of the council's $120,000 budget.

Council representatives agree that the tightly-knit members of the Undergraduate Council's finance committee are among the hardest working of the council's membership, and will group together to almost jealously protect their financial decisions.

The finance committee has a mission that stands in stark contrast to those of the council's four other standing committees. While the members of other committees spend their time drafting wordy resolutions and sitting on student-faculty boards, the 17-member tribunal that is the finance committee rules on which student groups deserve council money, and which do not--though the full council has the final say.

This semester, the committee will review more than 130 grants, paring down the $212,000 requested by the groups to about $30,000. Every grant that comes before the committee will be individually researched and reviewed by one member, who will make a recommendation to one of five subcommittees. The grant will then have to pass through the full committee before being ratified by the entire council.

Although grants are often amended by the full council, most of the committee's recommendations eventually pass--and the finance committee votes as a bloc to help keep it that way.

Traditionally, when the committee brings a full $30-40,000 grant package to the council for approval each semester, the committee will vote with one voice, solidly opposing any changes to the package. Finance delegates say they want to present a unified voice to the council, patching up any differences they may have had in committee.

And committee members, while acknowledging the right of the council to make all final decisions, say they resent council members who examine aparticular grant for only a few minutes andsuggest a change to a proposal that the committeehas debated and analyzed for hours.

This Sunday night solidarity, coupled with askewed male-to-female gender ratio and the factthat the group must hold closed-door meetings whendetermining grants has created an aura of mysteryaround the committee.

According to finance committee vice chair DavidA. Aronberg '93, other council members oftenperceive finance delegates as "man-eating,power-hungry gov-jocks who are pretty conservativeand pretty ruthless."

"Look at the chair last semester," he adds,referring to Hans C. Canosa '92. "That is theimpression of the finance committee. He wasconservative, wore glasses, dressed nicely, spokevery intelligently... you were ready to throwflowers when he walked."

And finance committee veteran Conrad M. Yun '92adds "people [on the committee] are veryambitious... the type of people who want to gointo business, very aggressive, go-getters. Thisis a place where pre-business types come to honetheir skills for Solomon Brothers or GoldmanSachs."

Yun and many other members of the council,citing a dearth of women in the world of financeoutside the University, say they feel many womenare alienated by the group's focus on fiscalmatters. This semester 16 of the 17 members on thecommittee are men.

"The finance committee is a legal finalclub--it admits women but discourages them,"Aronberg notes. "I don't think you can blame thefinance committee. It's just fewer women want tobe on it."

In the past, the committee has been referred toas the "finance club" by some council members.

But most finance delegates do recognize thedearth of women as a problem.

"I think the group tries to be as fair aspossible but obviously if the diversity of thegroup could be increased it could do a betterjob," said former finance chair David A. Battat'91.

And adding to the general perception of thegroup as an almost exclusively male organizationis the tight camaraderie finance members feel. Therepresentatives each must put in between 40 and 60hours of work over a period of two weeks for thecouncil's grants to come out on time.

"We spend hours and hours together in a smallcramped room, banging out deals between people,have heated debates, and when you've been throughsuch an ordeal, you feel like you've accomplishedsomething and you feel bonded," says Yun. "I'vemade some good friends through the financecommittee."

The pride of the committee is also apparentduring this period, which usually strikes aroundmid-term time. Committee members generally have 80to 100 percent attendance at their meetings,compared to many other council committees thatoften struggle to maintain 50 percent.

"The grants are absolutely 100 percentimportant and for three weeks you absolutely haveto come," Battat says.

Aronberg says he joined the committee in thefirst place because "I heard it was the committethat does the most on the council. People thinkeverything else is just a waste of time. Thefinance committee as a whole does more than anyoneelse."

"People like to say they're part of the financecommittee, a lot of people do revel in it," hesays

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