With last school year’s increase of $30,000 in funding for domestic student group travel, some club leaders say that travel grant funding levels are still insufficient, while others praise the increased focus on safety.
In the spring of 2014, the College convened an Office of Student Life working group to discuss student group transportation safety following the death of Angela R. Mathew ’15 in a car accident while returning to campus from a mock trial competition. On the recommendations of the working group, the College decided to increase its student group travel grant budget from $20,000 to $50,000 starting in the 2014-2015 academic year.
Rather than increase the frequency of travel for student groups, the OSL is focusing the increased budget on helping student organizations make safer, more responsible travel plans, according to Associate Dean of Student Life David R. Friedrich, who was part of the original working group.
“This money is meant to incentivize making those responsible choices,” Friedrich said.
Some clubs said they are benefiting from the increased budget.
“We applied for and got money from that grant this year, and it was definitely helpful for us,” said Emily R. Zoffer ’17, the business manager of the Radcliffe Pitches. “We had a tour in Chapel Hill, North Carolina this J-term, and the travel grant helped all of our members get there safely.”
Students also praised the application’s increased emphasis on safety, which rewards applicants who demonstrate an understanding of how best to travel in a safe fashion, according to Friedrich.
“Because in the application they say to emphasize safety, it forced me while we were still in the planning process for the trip [to] actually think about how we were going to keep the trip safe,” Zoffer said.
Despite such praise, however, not all student groups are completely satisfied with the current level of funding.
“We certainly are very appreciative of any and all money that we get, but the money that we do get [from the Office of Student Life] funds a very, very small fraction of our costs,” said Jordan A. Alston-Harmon ’17, president of the Harvard Mock Trial Association. “Although we get the travel grants each semester, that can maybe cover one tournament weekend, maybe for one team.”
Not all clubs have been able to reap the benefits of increased funding, prompting dissatisfaction from some club leaders. According to Friedrich, 38 out of 53 travel grant applications were approved this most recent semester.
“I think that there’s been a lot of great steps in the right direction. But more funding is always a better idea,” said Alston-Harmon. “A fundamental part of being in college is these extracurricular groups, and I think some of the most rewarding experiences are ones in which you get to travel across the country.”
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–Staff Writer Derek G. Xiao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @derekgxiao.