February 13, 2012

Letter: Uncommon Fund

The Uncommon Fund Board addresses concerns expressed in “Two thumbs down.”

While the Uncommon Fund Board and, by extension, Student Government, has always appreciated the Maroon Editorial Board’s feedback, we hope to mitigate some concerns raised in the February 3 editorial “Two thumbs down.” The piece did make a few interesting proposals, but these were based on concerns that Uncommon Fund Board members feel we can address.

The purpose of our first-round application was to seek out the most unique, innovative ideas from the student body. We stressed that preliminary applications (as stated on the form students filled out) would not require a budget and should be primarily prepared independent of feasibility and sustainability considerations for two reasons: First, we hoped to encourage the widest array of ideas and proposals in the first round, and second, we sought to address grievances from years past when students expressed understandable frustration in creating a detailed budget proposal only to be cut in the first round. Projects in the first round, then, had to be considered independent of these factors. With that framework in mind, we allowed the Board to supplement second-round student voting largely because the general public might not fully understand the practical limitations affecting project preparation and execution. As for allowing the student vote to solely determine what proposals made the first-round cut, we received enough applications in the first round that asking the student body to review so many projects would likely have resulted in an inefficient and incomplete consideration of the numerous submissions. The weight of student input is detailed more thoroughly on the second-round application packet, but the point is this: Student votes will be taken into strong consideration, but we feel it is understandable that popular support will not force us to fund a project that is absolutely not feasible.

Conversely, concerns were raised that voting and thus the entire funding process could be negatively impacted by student bias towards higher quality videos. This would seem to conflict with the Maroon Editorial Board’s earlier criticism that student voting does not have the impact that it merits, since it suggests that voting somehow has enough impact to warrant an objection to the video requirement. Regardless, while we encouraged high-quality videos and are happy to have received them, we have ultimately found that a good idea is a good idea. We trust our bright student body will recognize as much despite the glitz or glamor of any one video. Indeed, one of our most moving videos involved an applicant simply sitting in front of a webcam, explaining his project and the motivations behind it.

The Uncommon Fund Board is very excited about the innovation and passion displayed in the proposals thus far, and we look forward to the second-round applications.

The Uncommon Fund Board