That being said, the UC has in recent weeks made a number of decisions that leaves one wondering if the UC’s zealous pursuit of its primary mission, “improving student life,” isn’t also at times its greatest weakness. I’ll be covering this subject in a series of posts over the coming weeks. For the first installment, continue reading. (more in expanded post)
At first glance, the decision appears to be a solid one. Springfest, once the solely the responsibility of the UC, has been funded by President Summers’ office for a number of years now. The President’s office opened doors and provided funding on a level well beyond the UC’s reach, rumored to exceed over $125,000 each year. Seizing on an opportunity to throw a truly University-wide event for students, faculty, and staff, the President’s office admirably put on a show each year featuring good (and free!) food, music, rides, and events. After the initial success, the event became an annual affair. Naturally, students soon began to clamor for a retaking of Springfest (even though most students, it seems, actually enjoy Springfest in its current form). The Crimson even complained, not completely without reason, that the event was “more Barney than Bacchus.”
The problem came when the details of the post-Springfest Springfest actually came to light. The UC’s plan for an undergraduate only event, rather than a reclaiming, represents a rehashing. From accounts received by my informants it appears that the vaunted event will in reality be nothing more than the President’s version of Springfest, only in the evening and limited to undergrads. Oh, and with upwards of $20,000 spent on beer and a performing artist who has yet to be named. No, not that one. (Maybe the UC can pass legislation giving this unnamed artist their own symbol! ed. Hmm…good idea. You should contact your UC rep on that one.)
Let it be known that Jamal Sprucewood is not a prude. But one wonders what type of artist the UC can swing for $10,000. Ever heard of Mr. Lif? How about the Easy Star Allstars? Well, those are the artists listed on a handout provided to the UC by the Harvard Concert Commission tasked with overseeing the musical selection. (Do they have symbols? ed. Probably not – chances are they’re not formerly known as anything, let alone their current names). Ironically, the undergraduate only event will not feature undergraduate bands. For far less than $10,000 the UC could have brought in a local (or Harvard) cover band to play familiar songs all night long. To be fair, other artists were on the list such as Grand Master Flash and Pharrell, but it’s very unlikely that artists of this caliber are possible to get at such short notice.
Unfortunately, the UC has been unable to provide services that the campus has come see as the UC’s bread and butter. The UC’s Committee Fund, from which all student events and services are funded out of (not to be confused with the much larger Grants Fund which funds student groups, HoCos, and the widely loved Party Fund) has recently been described as having hit hard times. Allegedly the Committee Fund was so pressed for cash this semester that $1 Movie Nights, once offered on a regular three week basis, hardly ever occur. The co-sponsorship of the Movie Nights by Harvard Student Agencies (HSA), once meant to augment the UC’s funding and make the events more frequent, now serves as the sole source of funding for the event (when it happens). Where the UC once sent two shuttles to NYC for Spring Break, this year only one made the trip. The UC Boxes program, which has expanded every year since its inception, was cut by 1/3 this year even though last year’s supply sold out in days.
Given the above, it seems that the UC should have said “no” to spending $10,000 on a band that even sponsors of the event admitted was not intended to draw students to the post-Springfest Springfest, but to enhance the event. Given the quality of Harvard and local bands, I’m not at all convinced that this $10,000 had to be spent on a D-list band. Given the UC’s failure to put on its bread and butter events, this seems a dubious use of the Council’s funds. At an even greater level, the UC, which has of late become skilled at conducting telephone polls, should have at least sought out whether there actually existed a strong student demand for an alternative Springfest before committing over $20,000 in funding for an event which could easily flop due to adverse weather.