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The Finance Committee (FiCom) of the Undergraduate Council overhauled its method for distributing grants to student groups in a meeting last night, following through on a proposal introduced last week.
By a vote of seven to three, FiCom endorsed a projects-based plan for allocating funds, proposed by committee Chair Joshua A. Barro ’05. Under the new system, student groups would fill out an application for each individual project that requires funding. The older system required a single application covering all projects and funding needs for the entire semester.
The proposal was first announced in an e-mail to student group leaders last Monday, but was retracted when members of FiCom complained that they hadn’t been consulted. Barro defended the plan last week and, with more success, last night.
“Our new system will allow for real accountability, so we know that the projects we fund are actually happening,” Barro wrote in a message to the council’s open e-mail list last week.
“This is really a victory for FiCom and for student groups,” Jonathan D. Einkauf ’06, vice chair of FiCom, said last night.
“Now groups will be seeing their grants in the proper season.”
But some FiCom members took issue with the plan.
Council Treasurer Justin R. Chapa ’05 said the new system is too restrictive of student groups.
“It takes away their discretionary spending,” he said. “As long as it’s in the spirit of the student group, they should be allowed to spend their money on it.”
FiCom member Fred O. Smith ’04 agreed with Chapa.
“Student groups were not treated as our constituents throughout this process. They were treated as people trying to defraud us,” Smith said. “Changes needed to be made, but this wasn’t the way to do it.”
But Barro said the new system will increase accountability and efficiency.
“They’re going to get their money a lot sooner,” he said. “We’ve convinced people that this is workable.”
Some FiCom members also expressed concern that the project-based system will increase the number of grants to an unmanageable level.
Smith, who said he now wants to leave FiCom, said the new system will require too much time from the committee’s members.
But Barro dismissed fears of inefficiency and delays.
“I say that FiCom meetings will be run with a stopwatch, and I’m not joking,” he said.
Last night’s decision came as a surprise to some members of FiCom.
Last Thursday, the committee informally voted against the project-based system by a tally of eight to four.
“I think it’s funny that [last night’s] vote counted, while Thursday’s did not,” Chapa said.
Former council Treasurer Eric J. Powell ’03, who was part of a subcommittee that offered an alternative plan to Barro’s, said he was perplexed by the outcome.
“Frankly, I think it was a poor decision. I’m upset,” he said. “Part of it is people were just kind of tired of listening to Josh.”
The plan offered by Powell’s subcommittee would have had a rolling semester-based grant system with rigorous interviews for all student groups.
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