Council Follows the Money Trail

New rules tighten policies for student-group grants

Undergraduate Council grant money will be administered more efficiently if a new plan works as council members hope.

But the new plan, which would distribute council funds to student groups semester by semester, does not formally increase oversight of the more than $100,000 the council distributes to student groups each year.

In past years, the council’s Finance Committee allotted registered student groups three types of funds—semester grants, year grants and project-based grants—and club leaders said it was often difficult to determine which grant to request.

Under the old system, council members said, funding for student groups was not distributed quickly enough and clubs were confused about how to apply for funding.

Council leaders also said the old system allowed clubs to apply for multiple grants for the same event. Often, groups would apply for both a semester and a project-based grant for the same activity.

Council Treasurer Eric J. Powell ’03 said he thinks this was due mostly to ignorance of the grant process on the part of applicants.

Now, with only semester grants allowed for registered groups, the council hopes that it will both be able to tighten the reins on grants and relieve clubs of extra paperwork.

“The real drive behind the new system is really to take care of over-allocating funds,” said council Finance Committee Chair Gregory R. Friedman ’03.

Friedman said giving out excess funds wasn’t rampant, but it happened a “decent” amount of the time, even though he said he didn’t know of any specific cases.

“Why not close that loophole?” he said.

But Friedman said no new specific measures would be taken to oversee projects the council funds.

“We’ll walk around campus and we’ll see events that we funded,” Friedman said. “To do something like [auditing every group that receives money] would be a tremendous time commitment.”

Friedman said that additional oversight might result from reviewing applications every semester, rather than every year, and that the council reserves the right to audit any specific group at any time.

He added that members of a group would likely speak up if the group’s leadership reneged on planned events.

Leaders of clubs said they regularly asked for more money from the council than they actually needed. If they received what they requested, club leaders said they would then think which events to add to their clubs’ schedules.

“The process can be manipulated pretty easily,” said men’s club tennis co-captain Harold M. Birnbaum ’03, whose group received $821 from the council last year.