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UC Votes on Year’s 'Compelling Interests’

The Council established mental health, race relations, sexual assault and harassment, and social spaces as compelling interests

UC President and Vice President Shaiba Rather ‘17 and Danny Banks ‘17 preside over Sunday night’s Undergraduate Council Meeting.
UC President and Vice President Shaiba Rather ‘17 and Danny Banks ‘17 preside over Sunday night’s Undergraduate Council Meeting.
By Brian P. Yu, Crimson Staff Writer

The Undergraduate Council voted unanimously to establish mental health, race relations, sexual assault and harassment, and social spaces as compelling interests for the year during its general meeting Monday.

The four topics will comprise the year’s priorities for the rebranded version of the Bridging and Belonging Grant, a $30,000 fund that former UC President Gus A. Mayopolous ’15 and Vice President Sietse K. Goffard ’15 established in 2014. The Council rebranded that grant, funded jointly by the UC and Office of Student Life, and will allocate resources to students and student organizations that organize initiatives in alignment with the year’s compelling interests.

Undergraduate Council President Shaiba Rather '17 and Vice President Daniel V. Banks '17 preside over a UC meeting earlier this semester. Rather and Banks pushed for the rebranding of the Bridging and Belonging Grant.
Undergraduate Council President Shaiba Rather '17 and Vice President Daniel V. Banks '17 preside over a UC meeting earlier this semester. Rather and Banks pushed for the rebranding of the Bridging and Belonging Grant. By Sidni M. Frederick

UC President Shaiba Rather ’17 and Vice President Daniel V. Banks ’17 pushed for the rebranding last week in an effort to address issues with the fund’s publicity and utilization.

“It was completely underutilized,” Banks said. “We’ve only spent a few of those thousands of dollars in the last few years.”

The new grant will be named the “Open Harvard College Grant,” reflecting the “Open Harvard” slogan that Rather and Banks used during their campaign. Finance Committee Chair William A. Greenlaw ’17, who ran against Rather and Banks, expressed his support for the change during the meeting.

“I think it works with what the mission is,” Greenlaw said. “It doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as it gets done.”

Under the new grant, the UC President and Vice President determine, with the consent of the Dean of the College, a set of compelling interests for the year. Student organizations can then apply for funding from the grant for initiatives that align with one or more of the compelling interests.

Prior to the UC’s general meeting, Council leaders notified Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana of the proposed interests, Rather said.

“We want new events and creative events on campus,” Banks said.

The UC is still working to establish an application process for the grant, which will consist of a structured rubric that will allow the UC to evaluate funding proposals.

“This could be parties, or a media campaign, or it could be a new resource, like Indigo,” Rather said, referring to a new mental health counseling service.

UC representatives widely supported the compelling interests included in Monday’s legislation.

“I think this is fantastic,” Student Initiatives Committee Chair Madeleine H. Stern ’18 said. “It allows the Council to go after what students need and want, and it connects students with the UC.”

During the meeting, the UC also voted to allocate $5,281.07 in grants to student organizations on campus. That figure is a slight increase from the $5,021 that the Council allocated last week, but represents less than the amount the Finance Committee had originally intended to spend.

“We had budgeted about $11,000 this week,” Greenlaw said. “We’re going to investigate how communications have been running.”

–Staff writer Brian P. Yu can be reached at brian.yu@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @brianyu28.

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