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Amid Fundraising Effort, UC Votes to Increase Donation Matching to Racial Justice Groups

The Undergraduate Council normally meets on campus in the Smith Campus Center's Isaacson Room. It has held meetings online since campus closed due to COVID-19.
The Undergraduate Council normally meets on campus in the Smith Campus Center's Isaacson Room. It has held meetings online since campus closed due to COVID-19. By Jenny M. Lu
By Kevin A. Simauchi, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard's Undergraduate Council unanimously voted on Monday evening to increase the donation amount they will match from Harvard College affiliates that give to racial justice groups to $10,000.

UC President James A. Mathew ’21 and Vice President Ifeoma E. White-Thorpe ’21 called the emergency session — the Council’s second in the past 72 hours — to discuss further action items in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who was murdered by Minneapolis police on May 25.

On Saturday, the UC unanimously passed an initial bill that gave it the ability to match student donations to groups that fight for racial justice. Two hours after the meeting’s conclusion, Mathew and White-Thorpe sent out a campus-wide email announcing that they would match donations from Harvard undergraduates up to $5,000.

On Sunday evening, Mathew and White-Thorpe sent out a second email to Harvard affiliates announcing that contributions had surpassed their initial goal. The quick influx of donations prompted the Council to consider taking up legislation to raise the matching ceiling.

“In less than 24 hours, we have raised over $14,000!! Thank you to everyone who has contributed to making this fundraiser so successful,” Mathew and White-Thorpe wrote. “While the UC has already voted to match $5,000, given the significant influx of donations, we will be meeting tomorrow night at 7 PM EST to hopefully approve legislation that would double our match amount.”

During the meeting, some representatives expressed concern that the matching money would come from the $200 Student Activities Fee that undergraduates give to the Council. UC Treasurer Noah Harris ’22 said in response that the money given to charities would not be funded by the Student Activities Fee.

“We were basically clarifying that the money we're using to go to these charities through his GoFundMe, and matching these donations does not come from money that students pay from the Student Activities Fee,” Harris said. “And that's a really important thing we wanted to do because we want to make sure that every dollar we spend from the Student Activities Fee — and that students and the university and trust us — to spend is being spent on Harvard undergraduates and their student activities.”

Before Monday’s meeting, Mathew, White-Thorpe, and Harris met briefly to talk about how they could fund an expanded UC donation effort.

“Yeah, so this was something that we clarified at the very beginning of administering this fund with our treasurer,” Mathew said. “The money that we are matching donations with is part of our budget that is not from the Student Activities Fee.”

Despite the inquiries over funding, many UC members said they were excited about passing the bill. Mathew and White-Thorpe commented in a Monday interview on how pleased they were with the student body’s quick action in supporting their fundraiser.

“I am proud of the student body for putting their money where their mouth is for doing more than just posting on social media, and it's great to raise awareness, but it's even better for us to actually get involved and take action,” White-Thorpe said. “And that's exactly what this front is aimed at, and that is exactly what our student body has been doing by donating to these various funds, so I'm incredibly proud.”

As of Monday evening, the Council’s GoFundMe page had raised over $21,000 in donations. Quincy House Representative Matthew S. Miller ’21 wrote in an emailed statement that he was touched by how fast students came together.

“It’s been really breathtaking and inspiring to see that in just two days, Harvard students and their families have come together to raise over $21,000 from over 600 donors,” Miller wrote. “When we were initially planning the fundraiser, I don't think we had any idea that there would be such an incredible outpouring of support.”

—Staff writer Kevin A. Simauchi can be reached at kevin.simauchi@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @simauchi.

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