October 18, 2011

Uncommon Fund nets $35K boost

Surging application rates and increased financing from the College are pushing the Uncommon Fund’s decision makers away from small and unusual pet projects and toward big ticket initiatives with a long-term focus.

A $25,000 contribution from the Office of the Dean of the College and an additional $10,000 from the Student Activity Fund (SAF) have boosted the Uncommon Fund to $75,000—the highest ever in its six-year existence and a 47 percent increase from 2010.

The Uncommon Fund board received 146 grant applicants last year, up from 54 the previous year. Now the historic high has the fund’s selection committee rethinking this year’s funding criteria.

“A pool of money like this comes with great responsibility. I don’t think it should be allocated on a whim to things that just sound sort of quirky,” the committee’s chair, SG Vice President for Administration Forrest Scofield, said. “This really is the time to reflect and determine where we can put [the funds] where it will have the highest impact.”

In past years, the fund’s selection committee has touted its open-ended application process, which asks applicants only for a project summary and an answer to the question, “Why is your project ‘Uncommon?’” Projects chosen for funding included one which brought kittens and puppies to campus during finals week last year and one which sought to establish an intramural Quidditch league.

Dean of the College John Boyer pledged,at a September 29 meeting with Scofield, Director of the Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities (ORCSA) Sharlene Holly, and Assistant Vice President for Student Life Eleanor Daugherty. that the Dean’s Fund would match half of the SAF’s contribution, which amounted to $50,000 this year.

Holly, Scofield, and Daugherty approached Boyer earlier this year about the possibility of securing financing from the Office of the Dean of the College.

Daugherty said there was no specific reason for seeking to expand the fund this year, insisting that the fund’s board is always looking for new sources of financing.

Holly agreed with Daugherty, noting the consistent growth of extracurricular activities and RSOs in the past decade.

“In my nine years on campus and leading ORCSA, I’ve seen a steady and sometimes dramatic increase in the number of student organizations, the number and complexity of events [and] projects that students are planning, an increase in the number of students engaging in SG,” she said. “For example, between 2002 and 2007, we saw a net gain of over 100 RSOs on campus.”

Scofield, a second-year, argued also that the class of 2014’s participation in the fund played a major role in its newfound popularity.

“Changing the tone in the student body—the class of 2014 played a big role in that,” he said. “They’re a little bit more hands-on, more gregarious in starting new things.”

SG President and fourth-year Youssef Kalad is confident that the fund is staying true to its roots as an outlet for alternative student projects of any kind, regardless of its altered scope.

“The increased size of the fund is absolutely indicative of an amazing shift in student interests and a welcome increase in student activity,” he said. “We have students who love to learn and who crave intellectual growth, but who are also restless when the ideas they cultivate in the classroom fail to translate into action.”