Controversy Arises within Student Council over Grants Committee

Katherine Hamilton, Editor-in-Chief

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During the weekly Clark Undergraduate Student Council (CUSC) meeting Thursday, Oct. 25, the grants committee pitched its grants recommendations as they do every week. However, at this meeting, one grant in particular sparked tension among members. According to communications committee member Abdur Rahman Muhammad (‘20), this is not the first sign of trouble in student council, and several students are making plans to call for reform.

The friction occurred when the committee reported that they would be changing a grant proposal from $170 to $36. The grant was requested by several students, including two members of student council, Muhammad and Evan Hoffman (’21), for the Wellesley College Hackathon. Grants committee chair and speaker Lars Dahl (‘20) explained that only a few hours before the meeting, the committee found that the conference would provide sleeping arrangements. This was a concern because the original grant had allocated $100 for an AirBnB where the students would sleep.

After a discussion, the council voted in favor of giving the club a $36 grant.  

Dahl called the events on Thursday a “miscommunication,” and expressed hopes to meet individually with the disagreeing members to reconcile. “We didn’t get that information in time,” he commented later. “I think that if we knew ahead of time, that whole debacle could’ve been avoided and we could’ve come up with some kind of compromise or talked things out.” He also explained that the committee has been running low on funds this semester, leading to further cuts on grants..

On the other hand, Muhammad felt the instance pointed to a much larger problem within student council and is calling for structural changes. “We have to restructure grants,” he stated. “This is a very big thing. We should have accountability.” He said his main concern is that the committee is misrepresenting grants when they propose them to student council.

The job of the grants committee is to process and research all the grants students apply for and determine how much money the student or group actually requires, but the members of student council conduct the final voting on whether or not the money is granted.

At the October 11 meeting, the committee proposed a grant for Clark Chabad to go to the International Student Leadership Conference. After it was passed, Muhammad said he and other students did further research and found that the conference was called something else. On the website, the conference is called Pegisha and described as a “super-sized Shabbat” where students can “Eat. Think. Celebrate.” Dahl was clear that the committee had done its research: “We knew what we were funding. We looked into it. We were aware of what happened.”

Muhammad explained that the real name of the conference should have been shared with all of student council. “The grants [committee] misled the council into believing the conference was something different than what the event actually was.”

Another recent grant was proposed for Clark Musical Theatre (CMT) to be given a piano. During the council meeting, members outside of grants committee researched different prices for the piano and found cheaper options. “We reduced the cost inside the [council] meeting by like two or three thousand dollars,” reported Muhammad. “It was done by the council; that should be done by the grants committee.”

Muhammad has discussed his displeasure – which he says he shares with many other members of student council – to both President David Angel and student council president Eric Barrese (’19). He hopes the council will create an ad-hoc committee to investigate the work of grants committee. He said he believes these incidents have been occurring because of the way the committee is structured. As the chair, Dahl is the only member of the committee who is elected, rather than appointed. The other members apply, and the elections committee reviews the applications and makes recommendations for student council to choose from. Muhammad remarked that elections committee has a tendency to pick their friends for these recommendations.

He said that he and other students plan to discuss these concerns at the next meeting. Student council meetings are held at 6pm on Thursday nights, and are open to the public.