SG selects UnCommon fund recipients

By Kate Shepherd

A presentation on how to survive zombie attacks, a naked Halloween party, and a new student-run emergency response unit are among the student proposals that received grants from the UnCommon Fund, a program designed to distribute grant money to fund unique student projects. A reincarnation of last year’s New Initiatives Fund, the UnCommon Fund pooled money from the Student Activities Fee and the ORCSA budget to award $60,000 to 10 student proposals last month.

“The winning proposals highlight the fund’s main purpose; They are all projects that highlight the uncommonness of the University of Chicago,” said fourth-year Scott Duncombe, an UnCommon Fund committee member and president of Student Government (SG).

Thirty-eight proposals were submitted to the UnCommon Fund committee for consideration this year from both graduate and undergraduate students, committee chair and third-year Amanda Steele said.

“I was absolutely pleased with the results. I feel we had a wide group of students submit proposals,” she said.

UChicago Hype, a social event planning group, proposed reviving the Lascivious Ball this upcoming Halloween. Students would either pay a cover charge per item of clothing to attend or enter free if they show up in the nude. The ball was a U of C tradition up until the 1980s, Duncombe said.

Duncombe noted that the UnCommon fund can help to boost new or small RSOs that needed start-up or event money but were not eligible for Student Government Finance Committee funding this year.

The Zombie Readiness Task Force was granted $5,540 to bring Max Brooks, the author of The Zombie Survival Guide, to campus to deliver a speech on how to survive zombie attacks. Because the group was denied RSO status last spring, the Task Force is not eligible for SG funding this year. Second-year Justin Hartmann, co-founder of the Task Force, said receiving UnCommon funding was crucial to the group’s development and growth.

“We thought that a fund for the purpose of uncommon activities was exactly what we needed,” he said.

Hartmann added that the Max Brooks lecture will be a nice change of pace from typical U of C life.

“While discussions on the quad about Kant and Marx are great, every now and then we need a little change of pace. Last year’s grant money went to a lecture by James Carville, which, while ever so academic, hardly provided a break from strenuous academic life. Max Brooks is a wonderful speaker and can help stressed U of C students remember the important things in life, like protecting ourselves from the undead,” he said.

The New Initiatives Fund’s decision last year to grant $26,000 to the University of Chicago Democrats to host a talk by political pundit James Carville sparked some disagreement over funding distribution. This year, the UnCommon Fund committee opted to award grant money to a broader range of student- interest organizations by limiting the size of individual grants. The UnCommon Fund is also $20,000 larger than the New Initiatives Fund, Duncombe said.

Steele added that the funding committee wanted to ensure that a large sum of money did not go to any single campus group.

“It will make a lot of people happy to see the breadth of proposals that were funded and that a chunk of the money was not going toward one proposal,” she said.

“We were looking for something out of the box. It was pretty clear from the proposals which ones fit the descriptions of the UnCommon Fund,” Steele said.

The recently formed University of Chicago First Responder Corps (UCFRC), a group that offers free First Responder Certification classes for students, received $12,500 from this year’s fund to purchase equipment for starting teams of student responders. First-year Meredith Spoto, UCFRC chair of recruiting and membership, said that the UnCommon Fund grant will serve as the necessary springboard for the group’s training and services.

“If an incident were to occur on campus tomorrow, our goal is to ensure that there would be someone able to respond appropriately,” said first-year Rebecca Leval, UCFRC chair of training.

“It’s a really useful cause because of all the violence universities have been experiencing lately—including this university, unfortunately—and it could have a real function for the campus,” Spoto added.

The UCFRC did not receive as much money as it had initially requested in its funding proposal, but hopes that the UnCommon Fund grant will open doors to future funding opportunities from other sources, Spoto said.

“We were really hoping to get the $30,000 we asked for in our proposal. After we made a presentation to committee, it became pretty clear that we would not get all we asked for, so we reevaluated our budget,” she said.

Duncombe said that the committee assessed the possibility of alternative sources of funding for the proposed projects when allocating grants. A proposal for a stone carving exhibition was turned down by the UnCommon Fund but found alternate funding from ORCSA, Steele said.

This year’s UnCommon Fund was the second installment of a two-year pilot project, and Duncombe said that the SG Executive Slate has yet to decide whether there will be a similar fund next year. Among other projects funded this year were a Cinco de Mayo festival, a vermiculture workshop, and the purchase of recording equipment to benefit several campus a capella groups.