On the surface, the $1,000 that the Undergraduate Council sets aside annually to send select representatives to a series of Ivy League student government conferences is not alarming. The idea of collaboration among student governments across the Northeast is an especially good one. According to council President Fentrice D. Driskell '01, the "Census2000" project originated from such a conference. Last year's Taking cues from the positive efforts of other schools is a good way to start dealing with serious student concerns.
Nevertheless, there are more efficient ways to evaluate council programs than to send members to conferences that amount to little more than weekend getaways. Of the eight breakout sessions attended by council members at the last Ivy Council conference, Harvard delegates only submitted four of eight reports they attended. For the three-day weekend, only three hours were used to discuss issues such as ethnic studies and financial aid. It took more than three hours just to get there.
Several council members have publicly expressed serious reservations with the program. It's not that the Ivy Council is not a meaningful endeavor, but whether the benefits of sending representatives to the council can be justified by the weighty price tag. Currently, the council is strapped for cash--students recently rejected a referendum that would increase revenue from term-bill fees. As the number of student groups is increasing each year, the extra grand could go a long way toward making a tangible difference on campus.
In addition, there are cheaper ways to forge bonds with student leaders at other schools. For years smaller campus groups with fewer resources have been organizing intercollegiate events through e-mail, smaller regional meetings and other informal channels. Something as simple as visiting a student government website could yield just as much information about original events and new ideas as a three-day conference.
The problem is not just a matter of when to exit the conference, however, but how. The council has already committed to other similar Ivy-wide conferences, and a council member is also the president of the Ivy Council. This leaves the Harvard delegation in the tricky situation of attempting to leave the association it leads. But politics aside, we urge the council to make every reasonable effort to either find a cheaper way to participate in the conference or withdraw until funds for participation are more readily justifiable.
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