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Council Calls For Financial Aid in Cases of Abuse

By William B. Higgins, Crimson Staff Writer

The Undergraduate Council passed a resolution last night encouraging the College to designate students who seek to escape abusive parents as financially independent.

Introduced by council member Vedran Lekic ’04, the resolution requested that the Committee on Financial Aid amend its “Guidelines for Considering Student Requests for Financial Independence from Parents.” This policy, which was recently liberalized, is intended to free disowned students from the portion of a financial aid package that would otherwise fall to their parents.

Lekic said he hoped the financial aid office would build upon the recent changes.

“I want to extend the policy for disownment to cases of abuse,” Lekic said.

This fall’s revision to the policy eliminated a long-standing requirement to withdraw from the College for two years to prove independence. According to the new policy, students seeking independent status are required to attend a series of counseling sessions and be willing to seek a “mediated dialogue” aimed at reconciliation with their parents.

Lekic’s resolution asked for an exemption from this mediation for students seeking independence from abusive parents.

Alleged cases of abuse would be evaluated by a University-appointed mental health professional, mimicking the process currently employed for disowned students.

Dissension arose when council members asked Lekic to present the current policy.

Lekic said he had been asked by the Financial Aid office not to make copies of the policy, citing fears of abuse if the policy should be too widely publicized.

Mucha did not accept this answer.

The council ultimately approved the resolution by a wide majority without ever seeing the policy. Lekic said he would meet this week with financial aid officers to discuss the proposed change.

His efforts may have few observable results: no students have undergone the full process for disownment, Harvard’s Director of Financial Aid Sally C. Donahue told The Crimson several weeks ago.

The financial aid office was unavailable for comment last night.

In other business, the council postponed debate on a resolution to support an alternative Social Analysis 10 course, moving to adjourn instead. As of last night a petition putting forward a class taught by Barker Professor of Economics Steven A. Marglin ’59 had 704 signatures.

The council also allocated $1,500 for a “battle of the bands” event to be held April 11.

—Staff writer William B. Higgins can be reached at whiggins@fas.harvard.edu.

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