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College Ups Funding for Student Group Transportation Following Student Death

The College will offer an additional $30,000 in grants for domestic student group travel this academic year in response to recommendations from a working group convened last spring to discuss student organization transportation.

In addition to calling for increased funding, the Office of Student Life working group recommended that student organizations be “strongly encouraged” to register with the College any travel plans outside of the greater Boston area. Currently, student groups are only required to register international travel plans, and club sports teams register travel with the Athletics Department.

The group’s recommendations, laid out in a report dated July 2014 and obtained by The Crimson, come several months after Angela R. Mathew ’15 died in a car crash while returning to campus from a mock trial competition in February. The incident prompted College administrators to convene the working group to discuss student group transportation safety.

The working group includes administrators and representatives from student organizations and club sports teams. It presented its findings to Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana in a meeting Wednesday.

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The recommendations emphasize the cost of travel as an impediment to student groups’ abilities to travel safely. According to results of the working group’s survey of traveling student organizations, 81 of 133 respondents identified funding and travel costs as a challenge to planning domestic travel.

“It is clear more funding would help student organizations that travel and such funding should be made available,” the report reads.

Additionally, survey results indicated that 58 student groups have left Massachusetts on a trip and returned to campus within 24 hours, suggesting that some students are traveling at night, possibly while fatigued.

Associate Dean of Student Life David R. Friedrich, who sits on the working group, said the recommendations prompted the College to increase its budget for grants to traveling student groups to $50,000 for this year through the Dean of Harvard College’s Student Life Fund. Last year, the College offered $20,000 of that fund, which also supports House Committees, to student groups traveling to national-level or other special competitions in the U.S.

The working group has yet to determine how the College will allocate the additional funds among student groups, Friedrich said. The group will continue to meet this semester to implement that change and other recommendations. The OSL’s website has already been updated to include more information about travel, as suggested in the group’s report.

Among other recommendations, the working group called for the University to use its “purchasing power” to provide student organizations with discounted rates on transportation and accommodations.

In interviews, student members of the working group emphasized the importance of funding in enabling their peers to travel more safely. Undergraduate Council President Gus A. Mayopoulos ’15—a longtime advocate of increased student group funding—said the need is far greater than $50,000.

“There can never be too much funding,” said Lauren N. Reisig ’16, a member of both the Harvard Mock Trial Association and the transportation working group.

Although the working group’s report does not specify a target figure, it cites the UC student activities fee, alumni donations, and the University-wide capital campaign as possible future funding sources. It also suggests that student leaders of organizations that receive funding to drive a vehicle complete a driver safety course.

—Staff writer Madeline R. Conway can be reached at mconway@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @MadelineRConway.

—Staff writer Steven S. Lee can be reached at steven.lee@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenSJLee.

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