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FinBoard Reforms Dominate UA Meeting

By Alex Ianculescu

The Undergraduate Association discussed several Finance Board reform proposals sponsored by Matthew L. McGann '00 and Jeremy D. Sher '99 at last night's meeting.

The UA Finance Board is responsible for recommending financial allocations to student groups and for other campus events. According to the reform legislation proposals presented by McGann and Sher, "Widespread concern exists about whether our current process is really the best one."

The reform proposal had four major points. The first called for increased funding for food at events.

"Food at open events makes them more dynamic by increasing attendance and morale," McGann said. "The current policy is to not fund food at all for open campus-wide events, and we would like to reverse this policy."

The UA should "get rid of the current blanket policy of no food at events," Sher said. "FinBoard makes some exceptions to its restriction on event food already. Funding event food would benefit all activities, and would take care of current concerns that the exception policy is unfair or arbitrary."

The second proposal also involved food, this time at student group meetings. "Food attracts people to student activity meetings, thereby strengthening activities," the proposal said, noting that allowing student groups to provide food could increase attendance at meetings.

"Many large groups can offer food at meetings by virtue of their significant assets. It is difficult for newer, smaller groups to provide food, which places these groups at a disadvantage," Sher said.

At the meeting, Sher called on UACouncil members to take a long-term view and to realize that activities can draw in more people by providing food at meetings.

The third reform proposal concerned the self-sufficiency of student groups. "A student group should be an educational activity. It should not have to be a business," the proposal said.

There is no reason to make student activities run a struggling business while also handling academics, Sher said. The UA is given nearly $200,000 for the expressed purpose of funding student activities, he said.

Consequently, the proposal recommended that FinBoard "should continue to get funding from outside the UA, but it should also acknowledge that self-sufficiency is not a possible or a desirable goal for most student activities."

Finally, McGann and Sher proposed a change in FinBoard's current process of disbursing money. Under the current policy, students pay for groups' expenditures out of their own pockets and then apply to get reimbursed.

"MIT student groups have earned trust," the proposal said. "Reimbursements are an insecure, inefficient financial practice. Many students cannot afford the out-of-pocket costs of running a student activity. Also, the reimbursement process needlessly drains students' time, energy, and patience."

McGann and Sher suggested that the regular FinBoard process should be to transfer funds to the student group's account at the beginning of the term. At the end of the funding term, each student activity would have to present a report detailing how their money was spent. "The Finance Board can then review the reports to ensure that the groups used their funds for the purposes for which they were allocated," according to the proposal.

UAgives mixed responses to ideas

Responses to the suggested proposals for FinBoard allocations were mixed. Andrew D. Montgomery '01, the class of 2001 president, agreed that "there is a ridiculous amount of red tape" in the process for receiving funding for activity spending. He also suggested that class councils should receive funding for their events.

However, not all members agreed with the suggested proposals. "The changes are not a good idea," said Edward A Gordon '99. "There are better ways money could be spent that on food. Cultural food at cultural events should be and are paid for, but money should go more for entire class events rather than food at meetings."

Sarah L. McDougal '00 was also opposed to the suggestion that FinBoard fund food at events and meetings. "Money for food could be better used elsewhere, such as towards improving a publication rather than serving Coke to its members."

McGann and Sher introduced the FinBoard proposals informally, noting that they would make their proposals into formal UA resolutions in the spring.

"We want to talk about the big issues," rather than picking at specific aspects of the proposals, McGann said.

Housing also discussed at meeting

Another topic that came up for discussion and a vote at last night's UA meeting was a resolution calling for an end to dormitory crowding in 2001, submitted by McGann as co-chair for the UA committee on housing and Orientation.

Although several UA members suggested that the new dorm house upwards of 400 undergraduates, UAVice President Jennifer Kelly '99 said that a dorm housing 500 people "is way too big. The number should be lower if we want any semblance of unity or community in the dorm."

After discussion of the resolution, it passed unanimously.