Columbia College Student Council’s Student Project Grants present a unique avenue to empower individual students’ creativity and passion outside the parameters of student groups. Spearheaded by last year’s CCSC and continued by the current year’s executive board under the supervision of Vice President of Finance Daphne Chen CC’14, this new avenue for student engagement is exciting. As is evident from browsing the list of approved projects from this year and last, it is already helping students advance their visions for our community. But, as with anything new at Columbia, the grant initiative is facing its fair share of difficulties in its infancy.
That 10 out of 13 projects approved last year failed to receive funding is cause for concern and demonstrates a certain level of carelessness when it comes to how CCSC manages the student life fees of Columbia College undergraduates. The projects failed to receive funding for two primary reasons: First, last year’s grants were approved in April, so late into the spring semester that students had very little time to act on their approved projects. This issue has been addressed—CCSC has already announced the grant winners for the 2012-13 school year. Second, it appears that the CCSC committee that reviewed the applications did not consider the feasibility of the project or the preparedness of the applicants when making decisions about which projects to fund. This oversight meant that projects that should never have been approved without a great deal more planning and coordination between the student applicant and the Columbia administration (such as a rock-climbing wall in Dodge Fitness Center) were promised money—only to fail.
However, it does not fall solely upon CCSC to make sure these projects succeed. Students who apply should do so with an understanding that, although CCSC can provide funding and guidance concerning the resources available to students to implement projects, applicants themselves must also be responsible for seeking administrative support. At the same time, CCSC should deny funding if the project looks underdeveloped and offer advice to applicants about how they can make the project feasible. In the case of the rock-climbing wall, it seems that a request that the applicant check with someone in the athletic department would have resolved the issue in a timely manner. With these suggestions in mind, the Student Project Grant initiative will continue to grow in a way that stays true to its mission of facilitating independent, student-led innovation
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