a message from El Presidente

El Presidente Glazer (full disclosure: he’s one of my roommates) just sent this email out to UC general in an attempt to clarify the debate over social programming:

A main point of distinction in the platforms of the candidates for the leadership of the Undergraduate Council is their plan for the future of social programming at Harvard. After meeting with each ticket and hearing their plans for social programming, and after observing a campus-wide confusion related to this specific campaign issue, it has become clear to both Clay and me that more information is needed to explain the facts of the matter. Clay is currently giving a speech in Tennessee, so the two of us have not yet been able to determine which, if any, ticket we will choose to endorse, but it is important to ensure that some basic facts be understood before the campus chooses the next President and Vice President of the Council.

—What many students and student groups might not understand—
(more in expanded post)

To simplify the UC budget, the Council basically spends its money in two ways: on grants to student groups and HoCos and on social events. The vast majority of the UC’s money is spent on the former – over 75% of the UC budget currently goes to student groups and HoCos. The remaining 25% is split between the (very popular) Party Fund and funding social events. Some students believe that the UC should no longer spend money on social events and that the Council should instead allocate all of its money to student groups and HoCos.

The University will not pick up the tab for social events or for a social programming board. Isolated incidents of University funding, including the Busta Rhymes concert in Spring 2004 and the Harvard State Fair in Fall 2005, do not represent a trend at all, but are instead the results of much more complicated situations that led to funding. With the University’s multi-million dollar investment in renovations for the College, including the creation of a Loker Pub, a Lamont Café, and a new Hilles, and the renovation of freshman dorm basements, with the pending expansion into Allston (which will more or less require the building of a new city), and with the University already funding the Campus Life Fellow position, it is not at all realistic to base a plan for social programming at Harvard on the assumption that Harvard would suddenly allocate $100,000 – $130,000 for social programming (which is the approximate number that the UC would allocate, depending on termbill revenue).

With this in mind, students and student groups should realize that if social programming is to continue at Harvard College, it will be funded by the termbill revenue of the UC. This means that a plan that relies on the University for funding social events at Harvard while the UC spends all of its money on increasing the allocations for student groups and HoCos is not at all realistic.

Furthermore, the Dean’s Office is not equipped to do the work of a sixteen-member Campus Life Committee, a twelve member First Year Social Committee, and an entire Concert Commission. It is not at all realistic to base a plan for social programming on the work of the few people in University Hall who deal with social events.

All tickets believe that the UC should reform its approach to social programming – And Clay and I completely agree. The Campus Life Committee of the UC in its current form is inadequate and recent programming by the UC has certainly been disappointing. But if students should control the spending of their money, and if students should be able decide which social events they want, the answer to our problems is not – and cannot feasibly be – a total reliance on University Hall.

We are encouraged that students are interested in improving how the UC and the University plan for social events on campus, and we hope that this information adds to a productive discussion.

Matthew J. Glazer
President, Harvard Undergraduate Council

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7 responses to “a message from El Presidente

  1. Daniel Koh, Campaign Manager, Voith/Gadgil

    I appreciate Matt Glazer’s clarification as ideas for “social programming” have been thrown around throughout this race and I think that many people were confused as to what exactly it was and the process in which it functions.

    I believe it is the duty not only of the UC but of the campaigns themselves to clarify these issues as a way to avoid alienating the student body as a whole. With voting starting tomorrow, it is important that voters understand these important issues. John and Tara will be outside the Science Center all week to answer questions the student body may have.

  2. Cross-posted to UC general:

    Matt,

    Thanks for your email. I’m really thrilled that we’re finally having the debate on social programming that students have deserved for so long.

    Can you explain a little bit more about the “complicated circumstances” that led the administration to fund these campus-wide events in the past? It just seems a little bizarre to me (and perhaps a little defeatist too) to cite a whole bunch of times when the administration has agreed to fund things students have prioritized (often after opposing them at first) as evidence that they won’t do just that again in the future. Isn’t it the job of a UC president (and in fact you’ve frequently been very effective at this) to get them to fund things that students want? If we believe that (as the record indicates) the only successful way to put on social events is to have them done outside of the UC, why not at least try to convince the administration of that, instead of reverting to models closely patterned after those that have failed so miserably before?

    Let me be clear here that I’m speaking just for myself, as a student who’s long been interested in these issues. I’ve not talked to John or Annie about a response to your post.

    Thanks,
    Josh

  3. Neeraj "Richie" Banerji

    Yo Josh,

    Think back to when the Snoop Dogg spring concert didn’t happen because Boston PD asked for more police protection and the cash that would pay for it, and University Hall refused to pay up, saying THE UC HAD TO PAY.

    If you and Haddock/Riley want to have the administration leverage its “experience” with large campus events, it’s going to squeeze the money to pay for it out of the Termbill Fee’s gonads, not out of the nonexistent goodness of its heart. If they even WANT to be saddled with sole directorship of social programming.

    Anyway, my point is that either we’ll lose large campus events altogether (and although you dislike badly organized and unpopular large campus events, do you necessarily oppose huge well done ones?) or we’ll lose a shitload of money from our Budget that you currently think the administration will let you freely augment HoCo/student group event grants with.

    http://www.TeamZebra.org

  4. andrew stillman

    wow, are we really spending $100,000 – $130,000 a year on UC-organized social programming? that’s depressing…. aside from the party grant, what would we be losing if that money went elsewhere?

    you can throw successful fairly large-scale events (500-1000 people) for under $1000 if you are fiscally responsible and have enough people to staff/publicize the event. and if sell it well and keep costs down, you will likely be able to turn a profit. hocos and student groups do this all the time, and have a fairly successful track record, which is why it makes sense to increase their funding. with more money, think of the type of events they could put on.

    the UC has consistently showed its inability to spend its committee fund well, which is why it makes sense for it to reallocate money. if we want to have larger events than hocos or student groups can organize, we can hope that the dean’s office will continue to be as active and supportive as they have been recently. but even if they aren’t willing to, that doesn’t make the UC’s current CLC expenditures worth repeating….

  5. Richie, I agree with what you are saying. You make the good point that the Dean’s Office will not simply assume the role of social planners OR simply give away the extra money. Even if the Dean’s Office were the sole social planners, are those events that we’d want to attend?

    Relating to the Haddock/Riley idea that students will work on their own without an institution, I have a couple important points I want to make about that. I know much has been said about the Pep Rally, but I am using this to comment on the overall issue of campus wide social events. In October John Voith and I brainstormed the idea of a Harvard Yale Pep Rally. He then presented the idea to the Campus Life Committee (CLC). Members of the CLC agreed to help in the plannnig of the event. As the chair of the Pub Night Comission, I was also able to bring on our membership to help in the planning and execution of the Pep Rally. Finally, our “exec team” was completed by Justin Haan, the Campus Life Fellow. Also involved were the Cheer Team, H-Club, Football Team, and House HoCos.

    My following commentary may only be relevant if you consider the rally a success, which I do. Essentially, we were a non-institutionalized group that formed simply to execute this event. This is NOT how continual and successful student events should be run. If we turn to a plan that relies on the Dean’s Office to facilitate student events, we then also rely on the whims of a couple of students willing to put in a ilttle time and effort or the Campus Life Felllow holding the responsibility to seek out student support and ideas (which will not happen). The success or any project or event relies on having a group of dedicated and regular institunalized individuals. The Campus Life Fellowship was not created to fulfill the role of Harvard “Social Director”. His role was created with the intention of his role being facilitation, coordination and advice. His role should not be to plan events.

    We all can agree that the CLC has not had the best success planning social events. But the issue should then turn to why it doesn’t work, rather than simply assuming that getting rid of any student led events group will remedy social life ills. I’m not saying this body needs to regulated by the UC. In fact, I personally think that it should be as far removed from any type of politics as possible. But the structure of it is something to be talked about at length elsewhere.

    My main point is that a student led programming board is necessary to ensuring that campus wide events for the entire student body are run, and run well.

  6. I had sent this out over the UC-General list, I will tack it on here, because it is relevant:

    I have spoken with the majority of the deans that work on campus life and their sentiments closely echo what Matt has written.

    The important point that needs to be drilled home is that the Dean’s Office is adamantly against leading planning of social events. If you look into the events they have sponsored in the past, they are all activities that were led by students on the UC and student groups – Harvard State Fair, Pub Night (which is the result of Loker Nights, which CLC created), and the After-Party. The role of the Campus Life Fellow is to act as an agent for reducing administrative hurdles for students to plan successfully.

    In my opinion, John and Annie’s plan will do more to curtail the creation of those successful partnerships with other student groups and the deans than anything else being offered. If their goal is to do away with large, inclusive campus events that are created through this union of student groups, the UC and the Deans – then I think their plan is a good idea. The UC will no longer have an effective voice or body of students to work to create these events. Furthermore, if I were a Dean and trying to decide what to do in this circumstance, I would likely conclude that I should not bother to create large campus events if the students’ representatives do not want anything to do with this.

    The proposal, which John H originally supported, then didn’t and still does not, to create a Campus Activities Board (as it is called at other schools) is the most effective answer in revitalizing the UC’s role in facilitating large community fostering events, while guarding against the errors that have occurred, such as Havana on the Harbor and Wyclef.

    I think your argument that “the only successful way to put on social events is to have them done outside of the UC” holds little water. There have been a number of failures in recent events. I am not trying to defend the expenditure of those funds. However, there have been successes as well and those are often glossed over. I completely agree with people when they critique the Concert Commission and CLC. Please don’t mistake this email as a defensive effort on my part. But, the UC is the group that has caused most of these events to happen or played an integral role in facilitating their creation – this would change if the UC no longer had students interested in doing this.

    I genuinely want to see that campus-wide events occur more frequently and with a higher success rate. The way to do that is to not cut and run from this responsibility of the UC (and it is the UC’s responsibility – however they chose to realize it). Instead, the best way to ensure that this happens is to engage in the critical, introspective process that the UC is currently in and figure out how to best improve planning. Offloading this responsibility onto an office that is already over burdened and under funded is not the right way. Most importantly, I want students planning these events. We can do this and we can do it better than administrators. To reach this goal, the UC needs to change, but it doesn’t need to start lopping off body parts.

    Finally, on a different tack, I would just want to present some of my own thoughts on this focus in giving more money to student groups to plan events. I am afraid that we are suffering from a little bit of myopia here.
    There are hundreds of smaller student events each month, literally. There is not a dearth of smaller events. In fact, I often hear from people that there are too many, not in a negative sense, but from the perspective that it is nearly impossible to attend all of these. We are not in need of smaller events for two reasons. 1) There are a plethora of opportunities already. 2) These campus groups create events for their particular constituencies. I am concerned that we will lose any semblance of campus cohesion, except as identifying ourselves as students at Harvard, if we do not continue to focus on creating opportunities for the whole campus to come together. Some efforts have certainly been imperfect (someone might even word that more
    strongly) in the past. But, the way to improve them is to focus on creating a body that can do this much more effectively (this research is going on right now, it includes a benchmarking study against other campuses). I know of no college in the country that does not have a student government or Campus Activities Board that plans big, inclusive events. CLC is not working as this body, but a reconstituted organization, guided by the UC, with stronger input from HoCos and energized student planners will be successful.
    The Pep Rally was a good step in that direction, which began with Loker Nights two years ago and is now coming to fruition. I hope we continue to think that campus-wide community building events are good ideas; the rest of the country’s colleges would seem to agree.

    Cheers,
    Jack

  7. GLAZER’S RESPONSE (from UC general) TO PATASHNIK’S QUESTIONS:

    Josh,

    To explain more about the “complicated circumstances”:

    -The Busta Rhymes concert of a year and a half ago was funded as a one-time gift from the University because the concert was held in conjunction with Springfest. This does not serve as any means of encouragement for future funding due to repeated denials of funding for subsequent concerts.

    -As for the Harvard State Fair, I reference the Crimson: “The event was made financially possible because of savings on staffing requirements after the switch to online registration this year.”

    As I wrote earlier, these isolated instances do not at all suggest a pattern of increased funding for social programming. Moreover, the multi-million dollar capital investments that the University has made in the College, the impending Allston expansion, and the fact that the University already pays for the Campus Life Fellow make further funding in excess of $100,000 extremely unlikely. Consider that along with the fact that administrators across the board have recognized that this funding is not possible.

    Josh, of course it is the job of the UC and specifically the President of the UC to fight for funding for students. And it would certainly be wonderful if the University gave us over $100,000 for social events, while building a pub, a café, student offices, student spaces in freshmen dorms, and an entire city in Allston (not to mention the University’s recent commitment to support graduate students who might not get teaching positions based on the curricular review, and not to mention the calls of the faculty for greater funding to hire professors). But it is definitely nonsensical to base an entire plan for social programming on a funding “option” with chances of slim to none (and slim just walked out of town…).

    The bottom line is you don’t jump off a cliff and hope the administration will catch you. Cutting the UC’s involvement in social programming while relying on an infeasible plan is not the way to go. It is reckless to assume, and without any evidence in support, that the University will cover the significant costs of social programming, especially when the UC has a budget that presently covers these costs.

    If you’d like to discuss the different models for social programming to which you refer at the end of your e-mail, that’s fine, and hopefully such a discussion would be more productive than the exchange of campaign rhetoric surrounding this issue on all sides. But students should know that a model based on University funding that accompanies a guarantee of increased UC funding for student groups and HoCos is not realistic by any means.

    If you would like to continue this conversation, I’d be happy to sit down with you and go over all of this again. For now, I, and many other students, would like to hear more from the campaigns about their specific plans in this arena as it may be unclear what different campaigns are proposing.

    – Matt

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