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UC Funds Bicycles for Low-Income Students

The Undergraduate Council at its meeting Monday passed legislation that subsidizes bicycles, scooters, and skateboards for certain students.
The Undergraduate Council at its meeting Monday passed legislation that subsidizes bicycles, scooters, and skateboards for certain students. By Caleb D. Schwartz
By Jonah S. Berger, Crimson Staff Writer

The Undergraduate Council voted Monday to allocate $3,000 for bicycles and other means of transportation for certain low-income students on campus.

The legislation subsidizes the purchase of bicycles, scooters, and skateboards by undergraduate students living in the Quad, the Dudley Co-Op, and off-campus housing.

To qualify for the $50-per-person subsidy, students must be eligible for the Student Events Fund, an initiative founded by the UC that provides event tickets to undergraduates with demonstrated financial need. Currently, about 25 to 30 percent of undergraduates are SEF-eligible, according to Eliot House Representative Arnav Agrawal ’20, a Crimson news comper.

Pforzheimer House Representative Rainbow Yeung ’19, an inactive Crimson blog editor who co-sponsored the transportation legislation, said multiple constituents had approached her about their inability to purchase bicycles. According to Yeung, the availability of a bicycle is more than just a convenience for many students.

“We believe that this can definitely positively impact a lot of students’ mental health,” she said.

Multiple Council members said they sympathized with the intent of the legislation but didn’t like the structure of the proposed system.

Dunster House Representative Victor Agbafe ’19 said he would rather the Council purchase the bikes upfront and then rent them to students on an annual basis, rather than subsidizing students’ purchases at local stores.

“That way we sort of take away the upfront costs and we make sure it stays within the community,” Agbafe said.

Currier House Representative Amanda N. Flores ’20 objected to Agbafe’s proposal, arguing that maintaining a collection of bikes would create a stigma around using one.

“I think that it makes it clear that, oh, here are the UC bikes for the students on financial aid,” Flores said.

Ultimately, the legislation passed the Council unanimously.

The UC also unanimously passed legislation Monday to allocate $6,000 from its $18,000 Emergency Fund to the Finance Committee’s student grant budget.

The Finance Committee, which gives out $300,000 in annual funding to recognized student groups, has grappled with a budget shortfall throughout this semester. The committee was preparing to impose a 43 percent across-the-board cut in grants this week before Monday’s vote.

Finance Committee Chair Henry S. Atkins ’20 said the Committee’s financial woes run deep, and that committee members are “constantly” considering new ideas to shore up the budget.

“This in no way resolves the underlying structural issues that we are facing on FiComm,” Atkins said. “More student organizations are applying for funds.”

Agbafe, who ultimately voted in favor of the legislation, urged the Council to consider the implications of drawing down the Emergency Fund.

“Does this qualify as an immediate emergency and would it impede us from possibly being able to take action on some sort of future emergency?” Agbafe asked.

Rules Committee Chair Wilfried J.K. Zibell ’21 pushed back, arguing the stakes were high enough to warrant the measure.

“Our main function on this Council is to help student groups,” Zibell said. “When our ability to do that is impeded, I think that qualifies as an emergency.”

Also at the meeting, the Council voted unanimously to fund Mental Health Matters Week, a UC initiative that will feature two petting zoos, massages, and other activities for students. The vote comes two weeks after the Council failed to pass a similar measure due to concerns that the program as designed was trivializing the issue of mental health.

The revised legislation calls for peer counseling group members to attend most events to “promote better access” to mental health resources, according to the legislation.

—Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonahberger98.

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