The Undergraduate Council unanimously approved a package of $35,215.52 in grants for student groups at last night's meeting, fulfilling what many council members feel to be its most important role.
Finance Committee Chair Clay M. West '96 introduced the committee's recommendation of $34,775.52 in grants, $1,224.48 short of what it was authorized to spend. The council received $95,125.35 in requests from 149 student groups.
Big winners last night were the Harvard Computer Society, which received $1,275, the most of any student group, and the Blood Program, which received $750.
Last night four groups appealed their allocations, three of which were voted increases by the council.
The two groups that sparked the most debate were the Blood Program and the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association.
The groups highlighted three controversial elements of the Finance Committee process: the emphasis it places on benefits to Harvard undergraduates, the stipulation that consideration be merit-blind and the council's requirement that groups spend the money they are given in the semester it is allocated.
The Blood Program, which organizes Red Cross blood drives on campus, appealed its grant of $650, asking the council to give it the full $1,650 it requested to provide free t-shirts to blood donors.
The council initially refused to increase its allocation to this group, largely because a high percentage of those who give blood and receive the shirts are not undergraduates but reconsidered after all other groups were given the chance to protest their grants.
"The reason why we're switching it now is because we have more money, and I think that's a bad reason," Blais said. "What we're doing here is judging it based on the other groups and we can't do that."
Christopher R. McFadden '97, a council member who is also a Crimson editor, said the council should spend the money it has.
"The point of having money is to spend it," McFadden said. "A hundred dollars in a $35,000 budget is squat nothing. I say we give it to them."
The council voted to give the Blood Society an extra $100.
Former council vice-president Justin C. Label '97 said that based on the new activist focus the council has taken up this semester, it should reconsider its rules about how grants money affects Harvard students.
"It seems students are yearning for an increase in public interest activities, and that's exactly what the blood drive is," Label said. "I think the council used too narrow and too antiquated a notion of affecting undergrads."
West said he disagreed, warning council members not to let personal bias interfere with their decisions.