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New OSL Fund to Support 'Inclusive' Social Events

By Junina Furigay and Kenton K. Shimozaki, Crimson Staff Writers

A fund established by the Office of Student Life will support events that multiple student groups organize together, offering grants of up to $3,000 for undergraduate organizations to host “inclusive” campus-wide social events.

The OSL’s “leadership development” programs—including the “Collaboration and Innovation Grant”—is the latest initiative in the College’s ongoing bid to strengthen on-campus social life. The new fund will support events and programs focusing on professional development, social activities, and academic initiatives.

Undergraduate student organizations, academic departments, House Committees, and individual groups of students are eligible to apply for grants from the fund. Events must be collaborations between student organizations, Houses, or University partners, and be free and open to all undergraduates.

According to Assistant Dean of Student Life Alexander R. Miller, the fund was the “brainchild” of several conversations that occurred during the College’s fall initiative to provide more on-campus social spaces.

In recent years, the College has increased its funding for undergraduate social life as unrecognized social groups like final clubs and fraternities face increased scrutiny.Last academic year, efforts included providing funding for the [BLANK] Party, a College-wide Halloween party, a five-floor party in Winthrop House, and pre-Yardfest neighborhood block parties.

The College Dean’s office increased funding for undergraduate social activities by 73 percent between 2014 and 2016, with another 15 percent increase budgeted for this academic year.

“It has been made clear to our office, through student consultation and active listening, that students are looking for opportunities to create their own Harvard College community through the expansion of their student groups,” Miller wrote in an emailed statement.

Administrators have faced scrutiny in their attempts to reform unrecognized single-sex social organizations, with some faculty members and students saying they should not have a large role in dictating students’ activities outside the classroom.

Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair said in September that she hopes to provide students with resources to plan events, then “get out of the way.” The recently announced leadership development programs represent the first major initiative for the OSL since O’Dair took the office’s helm in August last year.

Other newly-announced OSL “leadership development” programs include “Catalyst”—a workshop meant to sharpen students’ leadership skills—and a Student Leader Recognition Night, which will honor nominated students “for all their contributions to campus and student life.”

The new OSL grant comes a year after the Undergraduate Council introduced a similar initiative to incentivize student group collaboration throughout the College. Last year, then-UC President Shaiba Rather ’17 said the body would “favor collaborative efforts” when considering applications for its “Grant for an Open Harvard College.” Additionally, the body’s finance committee later approved additional legislation—a “Club Collaboration Bonus”—for their separate grant process when an increase in funding requests necessitated cuts to allocations last spring.

“I think the impetus of many of these grants, and the OSL one, too, is to get these student groups to interact with one another such as different cultural groups or different political groups,” UC Vice President Cameron K. Khansarinia ’18 said. “We established our grants to get the huge amount of diverse groups we have on campus to come together for social or learning events.”

Miller added that several student organizations have already expressed interest in applying for the grant since its inception at the end of the semester.

“It is our hope to further advertise this funding opportunity as the spring 2017 semester begins, in order to continue to support the community-shaping student organizations that are so vital to our campus culture,” Miller wrote.

—Staff writer Junina Furigay can be reached at junina.furigay@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @junina_furigay.

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