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UPDATED: April 19, 2016, at 11:36 p.m.
In response to a series of rules violations that the Undergraduate Council’s Finance Committee had not previously identified, the committee was forced to revoke funding from four student organizations this week.
Each year, the UC Finance Committee is allocated about $300,000, funded by a $75 undergraduate termbill fee, to distribute to student organizations in the form of grants. The Office of Student Life stipulates that the grants may not fund events that take place during shopping, reading, and final examinations periods.
UC Treasurer Samarth Gupta ’18 said he believes the policy ensures there will not “be many extracurriculars going on during reading period and finals so that students can focus on academics.”
In practice, however, the UC has struggled to enforce that rule.
Earlier this month, the UC voted to allocate funding for five events scheduled between April 28 and May 6, totaling $1,945 worth of funding. Reading period begins on April 28.
In one case, the Bach Society Orchestra requested funding for their fourth concert, which according to the organization’s website is set to take place one day after reading period begins, on April 29. The organization requested $1,000 in funding for costs including venue rentals, programs, and instrument rentals. The application also stated that funding from the UC would help allow free admission to the concert.
In their application for funding from the UC, the organization reported that the event would end by April 27, one day before reading period begins.
Finance Committee Chair William A. Greenlaw ’17 said that since the event is scheduled to take place during reading period, the group is ineligible to receive funding. Greenlaw also expressed concern over possible misrepresentation of information on the group’s grant application.
“If Bach Society Orchestra has willfully misrepresented the date of their event to receive money, we'll have to have a serious conversation about how to handle their grants in the future,” Greenlaw wrote in a message.
In a statement to The Crimson, Bach Society Orchestra’s management wrote that “our grant team listed [April 27] as the end date because it represents our last rehearsal and thus the end of our preparations for the anticipated concert. While we certainly should've listed the end date as April 29th, the period listed on the grant does encompass the vast majority of the preparation necessary for the concert.”
“While this was certainly an oversight, characterizing it as ‘dishonesty’ would be unfair,” the statement added.
The funding concerns come at a time when the UC’s Finance Committee has struggled to enforce grant policy rules and debates further methods to hold student organizations accountable.
The committee’s policy rules also state that “evidence of dishonesty when applying or interviewing for a grant is grounds for disqualification of a student group from receiving future funding from the Undergraduate Council.”
In four other instances this month, organizations submitted requests for funding to the UC and accurately reported that their events were set to take place during reading period. Still, the Finance Committee and the UC as a general body voted to allocate funding for the events.
“It just so happens that sometimes, our enforcement isn't perfect, so some groups slip through the cracks,” Greenlaw wrote.
In one of those four cases, Gupta had distributed a $400 grant allocated to the Harvard College Bolivian Association. Greenlaw confirmed that the UC “awarded them their grant in error.”
In the other three instances—grants allocated to Tempus: The Harvard College History Review, the Harvard Ballet Company, and the Signet Society, a group of undergraduate artists and writers—the UC was able to revoke the funding allocation before the groups received grants, according to Greenlaw.
“We won't be able to give them funding it seems, but they won't be punished for their honesty,” Greenlaw wrote.
In the case of the Signet Society, the timing of the grant was not the only rules violation. The Signet Society is not an OSL-recognized student group, and UC rules stipulate that “only officially recognized student groups in good standing with the Office of Student Life may apply for UC grants.”
When asked about Signet’s grant, Greenlaw confirmed that the Signet Society is not eligible to receive grants. Earlier this semester, the Signet Society received a $390 grant from the UC for their “A Little Night Music” event.
“This is another problem with enforcement,” Greenlaw wrote. “The common app does not easily screen out non-recognized student organizations, so we're forced to take students at their word. This doesn't necessarily mean Signet was being dishonest though. It just means that we might not have clarified the policy.”
Gupta said he would consider advocating for a change to the reading period policy in the future, but that the Council must follow the current rules.
“We hate for them to not have their event, but the policy guide is pretty clear,” Gupta said.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: April 19, 2016
Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the grant that the Signet Society received earlier this semester. The organization received $390.
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