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UPDATED: Feb. 21, 2014, at 1:00 a.m.
In the wake of their meeting with University President Drew G. Faust Thursday, Undergraduate Council President Gus A. Mayopoulos '15 and Vice President Sietse K. Goffard '15 said that Faust considered their request for the University to directly provide additional funding to the Council unrealistic and advised them to speak to other deans about funding alternatives.
Mayopoulos and Goffard, who hosted a rally in the Yard before their meeting with Faust, said that they discussed the additional funding’s importance with the president and how it might be acquired, either through a term bill increase or directly from the University. Ultimately, however, they said Faust said that the issue was not within her purview, but rather those of the leaders of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the College.
Although Goffard described the meeting as “constructive and realistic,” Mayopoulos spoke more candidly about Faust’s stance.
“We did not get the $250,000. However, we did receive guidance,” he said. “It seems like our quest to improve the quality of co-curricular activities at Harvard will lead us to [FAS] Dean [Michael D.] Smith and [Interim College] Dean [Donald H.] Pfister.”
Even though Mayopoulos and Goffard said they understood the meeting with Faust would not be the only step in realizing their goals, Mayopoulos said that “it would have been extremely beneficial to have President Faust say that she supported our mission to secure more funding for student extracurriculars.”
Mayopoulos also said that he disagreed with Faust’s assessment of their request.
“[Faust] told us that she didn't necessarily think that it was realistic that the UC should expect this money to fall out of the sky,” Mayopoulos said. “[But] I think we were being extremely realistic…. What we are asking for amounts to a rounding error.”
He also argued that the University should prioritize supporting the lives of students currently attending Harvard. According to Goffard, Faust spoke much about “tradeoffs” that arise when allocating money for financial aid, infrastructure, athletics, and other student activities.
Weighing the significance of each priority against the importance of the campus activities, publications, and events that the UC funds was not difficult for Mayopoulos.
“I think if administrators understood how important extracurriculars are to students at Harvard, they would be treating this topic differently,” he said.
According to Goffard, Faust was “more receptive” to the idea of a term bill increase than to the proposal of direct University funding.
Yet Mayopoulos said that that Harvard “should bear a significant amount of the cost of extracurriculars” on campus.
“If an increase in the term bill is necessary, this increase will be matched by the University so that students are not alone in this,” he said.
The meeting with Faust was a key step in the Council’s efforts to raise additional funds for student activities.
UC leaders had announced in early February that the Council would request an additional $250,000 in funding from the University. The group’s budget is a little less than $500,000 for the 2013-2014 academic year, but it is funded by an undergraduate term bill fee that has remained unchanged since 2006. The dialogue with Faust came a day after the University announced they had received their single greatest donation of $150 million from Kenneth C. Griffin ’89.
Prior to discussing funding with Faust, members of the UC held a rally outside Massachusetts Hall. The rally, which was advertised throughout the week via posters and Facebook posts, attracted a crowd of roughly 100 students.
Standing on a small platform, Mayopoulos spoke briefly about the importance of mitigating financial concerns for undergraduates in student organizations and then invited leaders from various student groups such as Drug & Alcohol Peer Advisors, the Chinese Students Association, and the Harvard Black Men’s Forum to speak about what additional funding would enable them to do.
Following his address, he distributed thick toilet paper, which had been an initiative in his campaign with former UC presidential candidate Samuel B. Clark '15 in the fall, with the words “UC 250k” written across the paper squares.
Looking ahead, Goffard and Mayopoulos expressed optimism about future efforts to increase funding and enhance the relationship between students and the UC. The pair said that the next step is to schedule meetings with Smith and Pfister, who said Wednesday that although the specific methods of acquiring the funding need to be worked out, “it makes sense” that the Council receive more resources to fund student groups.
Goffard and Mayopoulos also stressed the importance of student activism and highlighted the number of students who attended the rally prior to the meeting and voiced their concerns about what they want.
“This was not a failure,” Mayopoulos said. “This was a great day because students gathered outside Mass. Hall and were very open about what they want from the administration.”
—Staff writer Noah J. Delwiche can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article has been revised to reflect the following corrections:
CORRECTION: Feb. 20, 2014
An earlier version of the headline accompanying this article mischaracterized University President Drew G. Faust's reaction to the Undergraduate Council's proposal. An earlier version of the article also incorrectly stated the year in which the last term bill increase occured. In fact, it was in 2006.
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