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UC Internally Debuts New Software for Vetting Grants

By Andrew J. Zucker, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: February 2, 2017 at 10:10 p.m.

The Undergraduate Council’s Finance Committee Wednesday internally debuted a system meant to streamline the Council’s grant application and approval process Wednesday, with a broader rollout expected in coming weeks.

The system, called "nova," which stands for New Online-system for Vetting Applications, will help the UC’s Finance Committee allocate its funds for Harvard undergraduate student groups. This year, the UC’s roughly $500,000 budget includes about $300,000 for Finance Committee grants.

The new program centralizes many aspects of the Council’s former grant application process, and allows students to track their grant’s progress and submit receipts on a single platform.

In the past, students would have to fill out a grant application, submit their receipts in a separate Qualtrics form, and then receive a series of emails on the grant’s progress.

The Finance Committee rolls out the new system several months after it established a procedure to investigate student groups who may be misrepresenting information on funding grants. The committee established the procedure after The Crimson reported that an impossibly large number of students were slated to attend UC-funded events on campus.

At the committee’s Wednesday meeting, UC treasurer Nicholas D. Boucher ’19 and Finance Committee Chair Neel Mehta ’18 encouraged committee members to tinker with the system in an effort to find bugs and mistakes. The software, developed by Boucher, contains just under 8,000 lines of code.

According to former Finance Committee Chair and departing representative William A. Greenlaw ’17, nova builds on the old grant application system.

“Nova actually is replacing nothing. It’s innovating,” he said. “This really enables us to make sure that we’re holding people accountable to the money that they’re asking for and the ways in which it is spent.”

Boucher said at the meeting that the old system was “a bit of a mess.”

“[Nova is] kind of this parent application that pulls together all these smaller systems that we’ve had in place, kind of building up over the years, but now all together under one location,” Boucher said.

Boucher explained how nova’s tracking system would make the Committee more efficient.

“The big deal for everyone is it’s going to allow us to track things that we have not had the technical capacity to track before,” he said. “We can find out what the status is of every grant in a click. We can see if and when funds were deposited into their account.”

Boucher and Mehta went through simulations of the grant process and answered questions about the software to Finance Committee representatives at the meeting.

“Tonight was basically a training night. We taught the UC members how to use this new system,” Boucher said.

Mehta said nova’s roll-out is an important step for the UC Finance Committee, as it will allow the group to focus more attention on other issues.

“We’re going to be doing grants a lot differently this semester,” he said. “The less time we spend on grants, the more time we can spend on everything else.”

Boucher said the goal is to release the software to the College’s student body “at most two weeks from now, at best one week from now.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: February 2, 2017

A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated that students would have to submit their receipts in a Word document to receive funding from the Undergraduate Council. In fact, students would have to submit their receipts in a Qualtrics form.

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