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Where Did the HoCo Dollars Go?

Gone to waste (and Bob Dylan)

By The Crimson Staff

For years, House Committees (HoCos) have provided valuable services to their communities by hosting parties, running Stein Clubs and making an immediate impact with fun study breaks. HoCos run House tailgates at the Harvard-Yale game, help improve House facilities and act as liaisons between the students of each House and the House Masters. They are indispensable to House life.

So it came as an unwelcome surprise to many HoCos last week when legislation attributed to council Vice President Michael R. Blickstead ’05 and Christina L. Adams ’06 proposed to cap the council’s funding of each HoCo at $1,500 per semester. Eight of twelve HoCos claimed more than that amount last year—and because of yearly personnel changes, HoCo activity, including the amount of money they each claim from the council, varies widely from year to year. Fortunately, the impending passage of this bill spurred Leverett HoCo Chair Katy Bartelma ‘05, Treasurer Alexis Roosa ’05 and Lowell HoCo chair Todd Van Stolk-Riley ’06 to action, and their voices at Sunday’s council meeting proved to be essential in restoring HoCo funding to reasonable levels.

Crisis averted. But what in the name of Matt Mahan happened? Thanks to the fee increase, the council has 40 percent more money than in previous years—yet, Adams and Blickstead attempt to cut HoCo funding?

The underlying cause behind this crisis is simple: Against promises explicitly elaborated on this editorial page, a few members on the council wrongly prioritized money to pay for big musical acts instead of the more mundane HoCos.

This page has consistently asked for a blockbuster musical act to be brought to Harvard, and the council delivered. Landing Bob Dylan was a coup for the Campus Life Committee (CLC). However, neither we nor Harvard students in general showed much enthusiasm for an expensive, yet still second-rate comedy act—namely Jim Bruer’s recent performance at Sanders Theatre. The poorly-attended show leeched money from council coffers, endangering HoCo funding. And what the council will now have to cut to make up for the raise in HoCo funding remains to be seen.

The council’s desire to make up for the costly moves of the CLC by cutting HoCo funding stands in opposition to what Clay Capp ’06, the council treasurer, wrote in an op-ed on Sept. 27 of this year: “In reality student groups and HoCos are likely to get more funding than ever this year, and it will be the council’s best set of investments.” The reality is that the defeated legislation allotted only $18,800 dollars for HoCos per semester, lower than last year. Capping individual HoCo funding at $1,500 and total funding at $18,800 may indeed have given four HoCos out of twelve a chance to get more money, but Capp can hardly say now that HoCos were always planned to be the council’s “best set of investments.”

So what is better for campus life, a couple of uber-expensive but unimpressive comedy shows, or an across the board increase in HoCo funding that will do more consistently to better Harvard’s social scene? When the students voted to increase the amount of money given to the council every year, they expected to get more, with no sacrifices. Trying to cap HoCo funding at a level that wouldn’t allow all HoCos to continue operating happily to compensate for mismanaged CLC spending is plainly against the spirit of the fee increase. We hope the council learns to manage its new wealth soon so it can fulfill the wilting promise of the termbill fee hike.

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