Here’s How the UC Gives $300,000 Back to Students
An Overview of the UC Finance Committee
It’s not often you can find Chess Club, Ultimate Frisbee, Anime Club, and CSA in the same room, but on Wednesday nights, an amalgam of Harvard undergraduate affinity and cultural groups gather in the basement of Memorial Hall seeking grants. These grants are crucial in supporting the myriad of student interests and activities that are offered at Harvard, and ensure that student groups can plan and implement events that further their objectives.
Room 028, where a dollar sign is drawn on the chalkboard (sometimes accompanied by “fi¢om”), is the home of the UC Finance Committee. As FiCom members file in shortly after 7pm, they claim their own interviewing tables before logging into nova, the new grant distribution system that has simplified and integrated many aspects for the former grant application process into one platform. Nova, coded and presented by UC Treasurer Nicholas Boucher ’19, allows applicants to track the status of their grants online and will help increase transparency by making data public in the future.
FiCom’s agenda for the day? To distribute funding to student organizations and initiatives on campus. The UC has a roughly half-million dollar budget, $300,000 of which is from the Finance Committee to distribute via grants to the student body. In the 2016–2017 school year, 216 student groups applied for and received funding from FiCom, including HRDC, IvyQ, Harvard Ballroom Dance Team, South Asian Association, Kuumba, and Bach Society Orchestra, and well-known events such as the IDENTITIES fashion show, Datamatch, and AADT’s Eastbound show were also financially supported. Dhruv Pillai from Harvard Mirch, a South Asian a capella group, texted FiCom chair Neel Mehta ’18 expressing what these grants mean for this organization: “Thanks again for the support. Concert literally wouldn’t have been possible without you.”
FiCom members interview students interested in funding and offer a recommendation for how much each application should be funded, if at all, by following a detailed policy guide for adjudicating grants. Afterwards, the committee comes together to review all recommendations and presents a grant pack for the general UC council come Sunday night. Sometimes, this process is straightforward; “food by policy”, “publicity fifteen dollars”, “transportation by policy”, and we move on. Other times, the decision to grant or not grant comes with much discussion, particularly for ambiguous cases without precedent or for large grant requests. After going through each grant application on an individual basis, the entire grant pack for the week is compared to the weekly budgeted target — $10,000 on average, excluding club sports— to determine whether cuts would be necessary. In order to encourage collaborations between student organizations, events that are hosted by two or more student groups will not face any cuts.
The funding that FiCom provides powers many of the accomplishments and experiences that student organizations get to experience. Just before Spring Break this year, FiCom gave out $58,000 in the club sports grant pack, the largest in FiCom history. Financial support from the UC has helped create a more colorful and diversified undergraduate experience for all sorts of interests to thrive on campus. Take the Robotics Club, for example, which was granted $2357.58 recently for materials and supplies that can be re-used in the future. We were proud to hear that the Robotics Club recently claimed first place again at a robotics competitions called ShepRoboFest! We are always excited to support initiatives that obviously fuel a passion on-campus and will contribute positively to the undergraduate community.
And besides just handing out the dough, FiCom is also constantly trying to reach out to the student body, increase efficiency, draft policy revisions, and tackle broader campus issues, such as sexual assault. In just a semester, FiCom has made great strides in increasing sexual assault prevention training on campus and partnered with organizations like OSAPR and CARE to implement training.
We do our best to keep our ears to the ground, respond to opinions from the student body, and pursue projects that can provide maximum utility. For example, FiCom member Nadine Khoury ’20 recently spearheaded policy amendment for transportation from only providing $4.50 per student, the cost of MBTA travel within Boston, to $15 per student in order to support competitions and events that require long-distance travel. Moving forward, we hope these efforts will have a tangible effect on the student body and lead to a better party experience and the $300,000 we distribute can promote inclusive campus events, straight to the students for student-run events. In this regard, there’s really no other office or agency at Harvard who can provide support for student initiatives and make student life at Harvard run in the way FiCom does!
WHAT DOES FICOM WANT YOU TO KNOW?
$75 from every Harvard undergrad’s term bill comes to the UC. FiCom is then tasked to distribute this money back to students in the most effective way possible. If you or your student organization has an idea or event in mind that will enrich the student body, please please apply for a grant! We make the process as painless for students as possible to obtain funding. For further information, check out https://uc.fas.harvard.edu/grants/.