With no experience in the UOFC, Richard Harris ’15 is not a typical candidate for the chair of the Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee.
Harris said he has no illusions that he is coming into the race as an underdog, but said he wants to become directly involved in overseeing and promoting student organizations. His platform aims to eliminate barriers for groups to obtain funding by accepting applications year-round and to increase the UOFC’s accessibility and role in student life by holding a forum, hosting a cultural event, and opening UOFC meetings to the public. He said his lack of experience is not problematic because in the fall the UOFC will become the Undergraduate Organizations Committee, meaning that any UOFC chair will face similar challenges as they adapt to the expanded responsibilities of the UOC.
“I think my chances are a shot in the dark, but I think I can do what Aly [Moore ’14] and Bobby [Dresser ’14] can and push it further,” Harris said.
Running under the campaign slogan, “Realize Your Vision,” Harris proposes to accept funding applications year-round, rather than at specific deadlines during the academic year, and to make connections to help groups with similar interests to obtain funding jointly.
Harris also said he hopes to revise the UOFC’s approach to accessibility by eliminating the UOFC chair’s office hours and instead making himself available anytime via email. He said email availability would promote communication with student groups over the summer, which would be crucial in broadening the UOFC’s scope. Harris said he may also open board meetings to the public and allow frequent attendees to serve as associate members.
Harris’s ideas are not limited to the traditional role of funding undergraduate organizations. He suggested organizing an “International Night” that would combine elements of Halloween events and an extracurricular bazaar to “officially celebrate each other’s rich cultural heritages with food, dance, [costumes] and music.” Harris said he also hopes to use his web design skills to create an online forum on the UOFC website where students can anonymously submit and comment on any ideas and proposals regarding campus life.
Harris conceded that his sophomore opponents have more qualifications, awareness and experience than he does, but he said being an outsider will enable him to approach the role with innovative ideas. He said he became aware of the difficulties of obtaining funding in the current system through conversations with student groups such as the Polish Club and a UOFC mmember.
“It’s not simply a matter of me doing a better job than them, but also being willing to do more outside the traditional [organizational] bounds,” Harris said. “With the transition from UOFC to UOC, there will be a learning curve for everybody.”
Harris said he has experience relevant to the position as an associate member of the Freshman Class Council, where he advocated organizing a scavenger hunt, inspiring FCC to hold an easter egg hunt.
Harris said he did not apply to become a UOFC member earlier this year because at the time he was not aware of the committee. Rather than applying for that position next year, he said, he wants to play a leading role immediately.
“I have ideas that I think can work, and if I was just put in that position, I would be able to implement them right away,” Harris said. “I think I will be able to create a smoother transition than my opponents.”
Harris said he is considering a double major in political science and global affairs.