Eliot House Committee leaders agreed midday Thursday to allow their proposed budget to be published by the Undergraduate Council alongside other House committee budgets, in accordance with the Council’s bylaws.
The decision followed a tense debate with the Council’s president, Gus A. Mayopoulos ’15 over its ability to require the HoCo to submit a detailed budget and the potential of withholding funding if they did not. Eliot HoCo leaders said they were worried that their budget, if released publicly, could breed negative perceptions about the House.
At the center of the dispute was a piece of UC legislation passed last spring mandating that House Committees submit detailed budgets revealing all sources of income by Oct. 1 in order to be eligible for UC funds, which typically amount to $12,000 per House. The legislation mandated that those budgets then be posted to the UC’s website behind a password-protected portal accessible to any Harvard undergraduate.
By 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, the night before the submission deadline, the UC had received budgets from all 12 Houses, including Eliot. Eliot’s budget was eventually rejected, however, because it contained insufficient detail, according to Mayopoulos.
At 10:30 pm, Mayopoulos and Eliot representatives, including HoCo Chairs Megan B. Prasad ’15 and Tommy Chen ’15, Eliot HoCo treasurer Ozdemir Vayisoglu ’16, non-resident tutor Jimmy P. Biblarz ’14 and two other Eliot representatives, met in a room in Eliot House to outline their concerns, and, with $12,000 for student activities and events on the line, attempted to hash out an agreement before the midnight deadline.
The group ultimately reached a conditional agreement. Mayopoulos received the Eliot HoCo budget shortly after the meeting, around 11:45 pm, but said he would not look at it until receiving a confirmation from the representatives the following day. In the meantime, those representatives could confer with House administrators for a second opinion on whether to decide to retract the document without Mayopoulos, or any other students, ever seeing it, according to Mayopoulos. He said he gave the representatives until 2 p.m. to decide and both parties left the meeting calmly.
Chen and Vayisoglu declined to comment on whether there were any stipulations or strings attached to the budget sent to Mayopoulos Wednesday night. Biblarz, who was present at the meeting and represented Eliot on the UC before he graduated, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
At around 1 p.m. Thursday, Mayopoulos said he received confirmation that Eliot did not wish to retract their budget and thus would allow it to be made publicly available.
Requests by The Crimson to view Eliot’s budget were denied by both Mayopoulos and Prasad. All House budgets, including Eliot’s, however, will be uploaded on the UC’s website in the next few days, Mayopoulos said.
Though their budget was ultimately submitted, Eliot HoCo leaders maintain that the UC has overstepped its role, communicated ineffectively in the past, and made decisions without the input of the House committees.
“It’s not that we want to hide what we’re spending,” Prasad said in an interview Thursday. Rather, she said, Eliot students she spoke with were concerned about the budget fostering unproductive and inaccurate comparisons among Houses by freshmen in particular.
“Pure numbers don’t reflect the reality,” Prasad said.
Had they not reached an agreement Wednesday night, she said, Eliot House representatives were considering the possibility of asking residents to opt out en masse of the Undergraduate Council Student Activities fee, which funds the vast majority of the UC’s budget.