October 28, 2011

Uncommon Fund concerns

In response to "Where the Fund goes to die" (October 24).

Infrequently do I have the chance to take a glance at the Maroon nowadays. However, I was drawn to Ajay Batra’s op-ed “Where the Fund goes to die” (October 24, 2011), and was subsequently determined to look into the October 18 article announcing the large increase to the Uncommon Fund, as well as the possibility of significant changes to the purpose of the grant.

I served as chair of the Uncommon Fund for the 2007–2008 and 2008–2009 school years. My first year of tenure was also the first the grant was referred to as the “Uncommon Fund,” after previously being called the “New Initiatives Fund.” My time spent pulling my hair out whilst evaluating projects stands out as one of my fondest memories from college. To say the least, it was exhilarating to read proposals for eccentric, quirky projects, as well as proposals for less out-of-the-box ideas that would still have an impact on students.

I am so pleased to see that the University’s commitment to the grant has increased. Many UChicago students take for granted the openness of the RSO system and the University’s commitment to making opportunities available for every student. And for that reason among others, the Uncommon Fund should continue to allocate money to passionate projects, ones that make us think, reconsider, and reimagine student life at the University. I am disheartened to read Mr. Scofield’s comments from the October 18 article and ask him to look back to the origins of the grant—and how in its first year as the “New Initiatives Fund,” many students were disappointed with the committee’s allocation choices. While serving on this committee, I felt connected and committed to the proposals we read—and found that no allocations were done “...on a whim to things that just sound sort of quirky.” Instead, we as a committee spent hours discussing the merits of each proposal, and even more time debating allocations. If this is how the Fund has evolved, then committee members need to reassess their purpose as evaluators of these projects.

I hope that Mr. Scofield and the current Slate recognize the importance of the Uncommon Fund as a means to expand on the University’s commitment to its students—quirks and all.

Amanda Steele, A.B. ’09