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Undergraduate Council to Fund Free Meals for Harvard Students at Local Restaurants

The Undergraduate Council held its first meeting of the fall 2018 semester in the newly renovated Smith Campus Center.
The Undergraduate Council held its first meeting of the fall 2018 semester in the newly renovated Smith Campus Center. By Caleb D. Schwartz
By Jonah S. Berger, Crimson Staff Writer

The Undergraduate Council allocated $3,000 towards a new program that will fund meals at local restaurants for 150 Harvard undergraduates at its Sunday meeting.

Applicants to the program will be randomly placed into groups of six and will receive up to $20 in compensation for the meal.

Lowell House Representative Abby T. Scholer ’21, who sponsored the legislation — dubbed the "Engage and Affirm Together Act" — said the program is targeted to students who do not feel comfortable at large social events and would prefer to meet their peers in a more intimate setting.

“I realized that many people don’t feel comfortable in large-scale party settings, or in something even the size of a House outing,” Scholar said. “And people are also looking for more meaningful connection than you would get going on a kayaking trip with… a group of 40 or 50 or going to a really large rave.”

“This inspired me to create an act that would help students who are feeling a little isolated, feeling maybe not as engaged as they would like to be,” she added.

Scholer added that the $20 price tag per student, though lower than the $30 per person offered by the similar, College-administered Classroom to Table program, will give students plenty of leeway regarding where they can afford to eat.

The UC also voted at its meeting to release a statement calling for more prayer spaces and relaxation rooms on campus.

“Faith, religion, and spirituality are crucial elements of many Harvard students’ lives,” the statement reads. “For students who follow any religion or belief system, the ability to meditate and re-center one’s perspective and priorities can play a pivotal role in keeping students mentally grounded.”

Rewan M. Abdelwahab ’20, the vice president of the Harvard Islamic Society, spoke at the meeting about the challenges she said Muslims on campus currently face in finding places to pray.

“I know a lot of students from our organization and other religious orgs on campus have to resort to praying behind stairwells or other things like that, which has been really inconvenient,” she said.

Student Life Committee chair Arnav Agrawal ’20 said he has held informal conversations with building managers about the possible refurbishment of currently under-utilized spaces for religious use. He said a statement from the entire Council will give “weight” to students’ requests for such spaces.

“If 50 members here today vote on this, this means that, probably, representatives, who I think are pretty plugged in with Harvard’s campus, agree that this is something that students care about,” Agrawal said.

The measure drew pushback from some representatives, who argued that the Council should attempt to address the perceived lack of prayer spaces on its own before issuing a statement.

“This would feed into the idea that the UC doesn't do anything beyond what it says,” said Lowell House Representative Julia M. Huesa ’20.

Huesa added in an interview after the meeting that statements from the Council can be useful in certain cases — such as when dealing with sexual assault and other issues the UC cannot easily fix on its own — but not in situations where the body can act unilaterally.

Also at the meeting, Finance Committee leaders announced they did not impose an across-the-board cut on grants during their semesterly “club sports week,” a week devoted to funding requests from club sports teams. Last year's cut, by comparison, clocked in at 30 percent.

Committee chair Gevin B. Reynolds ’19 attributed the lack of belt-tightening to the committee’s expanded budget this year. The added funds are due in part to Harvard's decision to increase the student activities fee, an optional sum undergraduates pay as part of their enrollment costs, as well as the fact that slightly fewer clubs requested money this semester.

“I can say that even just in the last two years of being on the UC, we’ve never gotten anywhere near close to zero in club sports week,” he said. “So this is just really, really monumental and I’m really excited and thankful for [UC Treasurer] Nadine [Khoury] and the budget she gave us this year to work with.”

—Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonahberger98.

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