February 19, 2013

Fanfare for the Uncommon Fund

Since its creation in 2006, the Uncommon Fund has helped fund projects such as tie-dye on the Quad, Maroon TV, and last year’s academic conference on Jersey Shore. This year the fund has $85,000 to allocate, more than any year previous. Fund allocation is partially dependent on student interest, and online voting for Uncommon Fund projects opened this past Saturday and will continue through Friday. Though student votes are not the only determinant of which projects will receive funding, the Uncommon Fund board does use them as a means of ascertaining interest in certain projects, especially those that are dependent on student participation. Because students play an important role in this process, it is imperative that they take more than a passing interest in the possibilities of the Uncommon Fund. In order for student voter turnout to more accurately reflect interest, the Uncommon Fund board must draw more attention to the student voting period.

Regarding student votes, the Uncommon Fund Web site states, “While it is not a fixed metric in the decision process, student enthusiasm shows the board which projects the student body wants to see on campus and which projects creators are already advertising.” Though student votes are primarily meant to determine how interested students would be in the implementation of certain projects, it is also used to gauge the marketing skills of fund applicants.

The Uncommon Fund differs from other means of student activity funding in that it relies heavily upon student feedback in determining its funding allocations. This emphasis on public input should encourage participation by the student body. The opportunity to vote for second-round projects, however, has not been adequately publicized: Though the board uses e-mail blasts, flyers, and office hours to inform students about applying to the Uncommon Fund, these same efforts have not been put into informing students of voting procedures. While this strategy is employed to encourage students’ own marketing of their projects, publicity about the online voting period should primarily be the responsibility of the Uncommon Fund board. Currently, because marketing is done individually by fund applicants, the voting results are necessarily skewed. Vote tallies would be more telling of student interest if the publicity efforts of the Uncommon Fund board were far-reaching and invited all students to give their opinion on the projects up for vote. Such efforts would be preferable to student marketing, as they would ensure neutral and equal exposure for every Fund finalist. In conflating student interest with the marketing savvy of applicants, the Uncommon Fund board neglects the needs and wants of the student body in the interest of those participating in the application process.

This method does not reward those with the best idea, but those who are able to best reach students. In this way, the Uncommon Fund seems to be more for the benefit of the students suggesting projects than those engaging with them. If the Uncommon Fund would like to fund those projects that students truly find the most compelling, the board would do well to advertise the voting period more extensively.

The Editorial Board consists of the Editors-in-Chief and the Viewpoints Editors.