The recent resurfacing of a proposal to transfer $10 of every student’s HEF funds from entries and houses to College Council has concerned many students.
The issue was brought up at the October 5 meeting of the Housing Committee, and produced resounding cries of disapproval. Since that meeting, however, more information about the proposal has emerged, and the possibility of a HEF fund transfer does not appear imminent.
The original idea for such a transfer of funds was developed last year by former College Council co-presidents Mac Harman ’98 and Amanda Cowley ’98, in response to what they viewed as the ineffective use of HEF funds by houses. They believed that HEF funds would be better spent by organizations such as SAC and the Frosh Council in sponsoring all-campus events.
According to Assistant Dean Wanda Lee the transfer proposal became an issue again this year when Dean of the College Peter Murphy asked her to look into its status.
Dean Lee brought the HEF fund issue to the attention of Housing Committee Co-Presidents Dede Orraca-Tetteh ’99 and Marc Shotland ’99, and College Council Co-Presidents Will Slocum ’99 and Kate Ervin ’99 in an effort to stimulate an examination of HEF fund usage.
Slocum said this year’s College Council has yet to discuss the HEF fund transfer proposal and had not planned to until Dean Lee raised the issue. Ervin ’99 and Anh Nguyen ’99, the College CouncilTtreasurer, met with Lee yesterday to talk about the current status of the proposal.
“We were not prepared to deal with this issue right now,” Nyugen said. “It came out of left field, and we don’t want College Council to look like the big bad wolf trying to take everyone’s HEF funds.”
Nguyen continued, “As of now, the College Council plans to use this year to evaluate how HEF funds are spent, to see if they are spent responsibly. At the end of the year we will make recommendations about possible reforms of the system”
Co-President Slocum, although critical of HEF fund mismanagement, claims no allegiances on the HEF fund transfer issue.
“I am in favor of a better utilization of HEF funds,” he said. “I think we need to discuss ways in which HEF funds can be better spent. Transferring funds is one option to consider.”
He cited examples of HEF fund misuse from his own experience at Williams.
“My house last year ended up buying a stereo at the end of the year and raffling it off because we had all these unused HEF funds. ”
Critics of the current HEF fund system also cite the Housing Committee’s attempt at the end of last semester to donate all remaining HEF funds to the Williamstown Youth Center.
The only public discussion focusing on the question of HEF fund control took place at last week’s Housing Committee’s meeting.
The immediate reaction of the majority of the committee was one of outrage and disapproval. In general, the house presidents felt that taking away HEF funds would drain the life-blood of the Housing Committee.
“It’s a move that would erode the ability of the housing committee to do its job” said Todd Rogers ’01, co-president of Dodd House. “Re-distributing funds that are currently in the control of the Committee to other groups would lead to the Housing committee having less influence in the planning of social functions, which seems to be its principal function.”
At this point, however, the proposal to transfer funds is less of an issue then the issue of HEF fund fiscal responsibility. Critics of the current system cite the ineffective and inefficient use of HEF funds as their main concern. The house presidents provided several explanations for the perceived mismanagement of HEF funds.
According to several members of the committee a major reason for left over HEF funds at the end of the year are the confusing HEF fund statements which often do not accurately detail how much money is remaining in house accounts.
“If treasurers were provided with more accurate and less confusing house fund reports, then a lot of the problem would be solved,” said Gillian Weitz ‘99, co-president of Perry House.
Other members noted that trying to set out a house’s fiscal calendar for a year is not an easy task. The inestimable cost of damages alone makes such long term planning almost impossible.
Orraca-Tetteh expressed sentiments along these lines of reasoning.
“It’s not as if houses plan on not spending HEF funds,” she said. “Who wouldn’t want to spend that money? Without perfect foresight, however, it’s hard to know how much money will remain come May.”
Some members pointed out that last year was an aberration due to controversy surrounding the party policy, and, therefore, should not be looked at as model of how HEF funds are typically used. Still others argued that taking away HEF funds would make houses more dependent on dues as a means of funding house events.
College Council leaders say they are taking this explanation into consideration and is interested in proposing intiatives that will bring about a better use of HEF funds. For example, in lieu of a transfer of funds, some students have suggested that the Housing Committee should work more closely with organizations such as SAC to sponsor broad-based campus wide events.
“I think we need to bridge the gap between the Housing Committee and SAC, so that they can better co-ordinate events and use HEF funds more effectively,” said Ervin.
The criticism of ineffective use of HEF funds has helped prompt a self study of the Housin Committee.
“I think this situation gives the Housing Committee a great opportunity to reevaluate itself and its role in campus life,” Lee said.