College administrators raised the stakes yesterday in their confrontation with the Undergraduate Council, freezing all UC funds until the council ends its party grant program and threatening to establish their own grant-giving system if the UC fails to comply.
Bluntly calling into question the council’s commitment to preventing underage drinking, Assistant Dean of the College Paul J. McLoughlin II told UC officials yesterday that Harvard will not give the council any money to fund a public event by a student group or HoCo unless there is a Beverage Authorization Team present to enforce the legal drinking age.
In the meeting, McLoughlin said the UC will now have to file student group receipts before the University reimburses any spending. In the past, the council received this money up front based on cost estimates, rather than reimbursements.
“They’ve shown us they can’t be trusted, so we’re going to have a new process by which they can get money,” McLoughlin said.
The move by the College amounted to one of the greatest challenges to the UC’s prerogatives in the student-elected body’s 25-year history. UC leaders stayed on the offensive yesterday, requesting a meeting with Harvard’s top lawyers and continuing to charge the administration with forcing student social life into less regulated settings.
“This and the elimination of party funds both shift the social life on campus into hands of the privileged,” UC President Ryan A. Petersen ‘08 said in an interview. He argued that the requirement that the UC provide the College with receipts before being reimbursed would adversely affect student organizations such as arts groups and HoCos, which may lack the capital to fund events and then wait for a check.
In an interview yesterday, McLoughlin refuted student claims that the administration is hurting student groups and social life.
“This is University money, so therefore the University is responsible for how that money is spent,” McLoughlin said. “We implore you to find any other school in the country who gives alcohol to students. You won’t find it.”
The UC is currently using money left over from previous semesters to fund its operations. Sundquist said that money is running out quickly and they will not have enough to fund events all semester.
On Sunday, the council voted unanimously to allocate $17,000 to allow for 10 weeks of grants. Sundquist said that about 4 percent of UC funds go to private parties.
McLoughlin ended his meeting with the ultimatum that if the UC refused to end private party funds, the administration would begin its own grant-giving system, adding that such a system has existed in the dean’s office in the past.
Petersen countered that McLoughlin’s proposal would amount to an “unprecedented, unacceptable” move in defiance of defiance of the UC’s constitution. The Faculty approved it in 1982, when they passed the legislation creating the UC and also the student activities fee. The UC constitution states that the UC has final control over the funds from the fee, now at $75.
But McLoughlin accused the council of misusing the fee, which is collected on an opt-out basis on student termbills once a year. He said that the description of the so-called “UC tax” on the termbill Web site makes no mention of the private party fund. The termbill site says that the money is allocated towards HoCos, student groups and council operating costs.
“I have both a legal and moral obligation to make sure this money is going towards what it says it is to be used for,” McLoughlin said.
In a meeting later yesterday with Associate Dean of Residential Life Suzy M. Nelson and Associate Dean of the College Judith H. Kidd, five members of the UC Executive Board requested a meeting with the Office of General Counsel to discuss the legality of the party fund program.
UC Vice President Matthew L. Sundquist ‘09 said that without access to the Office of General Counsel, the UC is at a disadvantage in negotiations with the administration because they do not know if the party grant program is violating the law.
Nelson and Kidd could not be reached for comment yesterday. Interim Dean of the College David R. Pilbeam, who signed the letter last week announcing the end of the party fund, did not return a request for comment. McLoughlin said he “did not pander” to the fears of some students that cancelling party funds would led to increased attendance at final clubs and a potentially more dangerous drinking culture.
“The reality is the administration is not forcing any student to do anything illegal or dangerous. They’re making a choice to do that,” McLoughlin said.
—Staff writer Aditi Banga can be reached at email@example.com.
Read more in NewsJ.F.K. Adviser Speaks