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UC Establishes Procedure for Inquiry into Student Organization Dishonesty

By Brian P. Yu, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: April 25, 2016, at 12:57 a.m.

In response to concerns that clubs may be misrepresenting information, the Undergraduate Council’s Finance Committee wrote a formal procedure Sunday for conducting inquiries into student organizations accused of dishonesty in their UC grant applications.

The committee discussed the procedure during its Thursday meeting, and will use it for the first time this week in an inquiry into Bach Society Orchestra. The club had funding for its fourth concert revoked last week when the Finance Committee determined that the date of the concert was different from the date reported on the organization’s grant application. The concert takes place during reading period, when organizations are ineligible to receive UC funding.

UC Finance Committee Chair William A. Greenlaw ’17 expressed concern last week that the organization may have “willfully misrepresented” information in its application. Greenlaw has also suggested that clubs may be intentionally overstating event attendance in order to receive more funding.

According to UC Rules Committee Chair Daniel R. Levine ’17, an inactive Crimson editor, the committee has the authority to disqualify student groups from receiving funding if there is “evidence of dishonesty.” However, the committee had not previously established a formal procedure for determining decisions about disqualifications.

“We've never had to be judge before,” Greenlaw said.

During last Thursday’s committee meeting, representatives outlined a procedure for conducting inquiries.

“If we have reason to believe an organization has been dishonest, we can open a case,” Greenlaw said, describing the new procedure. “It involves soliciting a statement from them, written or in person. We weigh the evidence. Based on the evidence, we make a recommendation.”

Because any committee decision to allocate or not allocate UC funds would require approval by the Council at large, the Finance Committee’s recommendation on whether to suspend funding would face a vote by the full Council, Greenlaw said.

During the Finance Committee’s meeting, representatives extensively discussed what punishment would be appropriate for student groups found “guilty” as a result of an inquiry.

Representatives agreed that some punishment would be necessary to deter future attempts to defraud the Council.

“The message that [not having a punishment] would send is that it’s worth it to try to screw the system, to play the game, to find loopholes and see if we don’t notice,” Elm Yard representative Evan M. Bonsall ’19 said.

“You want it to be a punishment that disincentives people from gaming the system,” Greenlaw added.

The committee ultimately determined that student organizations found to be dishonest will be barred from receiving funding for a number of weeks.

“The punishment must be proportional to how much they attempted to game the public trust by,” Greenlaw said.

Some representatives expressed concern that such a procedure may punish clubs for honest mistakes. Oak Yard representative Nicholas D. Boucher ’19 said the Finance Committee should give the benefit of the doubt to organizations that may have made unintentional errors in their applications.

Greenlaw said the committee will formally vote to approve the procedure on Monday.

As of press time, Bach Society Orchestra production manager Juhwan Seo ’17 wrote that it would be “premature” to comment on the inquiry because he said the group has “yet to be notified from anyone at the UC” on the matter. In a statement to The Crimson last week, Bach Society Orchestra’s management wrote that “while this was certainly an oversight, characterizing it as ‘dishonesty’ would be unfair.”

“This is going to be a precedent-setting case,” Pforzheimer House representative Neel Mehta ’18 said.

The committee plans to adjudicate the inquiry during its meeting on Wednesday.

“Any further punishment, if it's forthcoming, will be determined after we view the evidence and we hear from the people at the Bach Society. It's just a matter of due process,” Bonsall said.

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

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