Student Association members responsible for doling out thousands of dollars in scholarships last semester gave most of the money to their colleagues.
In April, the Joint Committee of Faculty and Students, comprised of SA officials and professors, awarded $1,000 scholarships to seven students, five of whom are involved in student government. While no one has disputed that the students deserved the awards, several SA and JCFS members said the scholarship process will be better advertised this year in the hopes of getting a larger and more diverse applicant pool.
SA President Omar Woodard, who appoints the student members of the JCFS, acknowledged that some people called the scholarship process a “travesty” last year.
“That was the case last year,” Woodard said. “There’s nothing to worry about this year.” He said the scholarships would be well publicized, and that all students who meet the award criteria should be aware of and have the opportunity to apply for it.
The JCFS is a group of SA-selected students and faculty members that discuss a variety of issues affecting academic and student life; last year, for instance, the committee had extensive conversations about University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s alternative calendar proposal.
Before spring break in March, the committee began advertising its $1,000 scholarship in a manner that all members who were interviewed described as limited. Senior Shaina Schallop, who served on the committee last year, said information about the scholarship was sent over the listservs of several organizations, including the SA. An advertisement was also placed in The Hatchet.
To apply for the scholarship, students need to have a 3.0 cumulative GPA and a 3.0 GPA during each semester. Applicants needed to submit two recommendations, answer questions about leadership and write an essay.
“Not more than 10” applications were submitted by the late March deadline, Schallop said. The committee decided to extend the deadline to the first week of April, an action that brought the total number of prospective applicants to between 15 and 20. Eliminating some students because of incomplete applications brought the number to between 10 and 15.
Committee members attributed the lack of applications to poor advertising and noted that it was the first year they were handling the award process.
“(The Student Activities Center) turned it over to us,” Schallop said. “We were dealing with a lot of issues at the time. It wasn’t as coordinated as we’d liked it to be.”
Despite the small number of applications, the committee decided to grant the awards because the “quality of the applicants didn’t suffer,” Schallop said. She noted that in addition to serving in the SA or SAC, most applicants were part of other organizations, such as the College Republicans and College Democrats.
“The consensus was that those who received the awards were deserving, but that we had not done a good job of publicizing them,” said religion professor Harry Yeide, a committee member.
Almost all applicants were affiliated with the SA or SAC.
Those affiliations led committee members to award five of the seven scholarships to SA members. The award winners were Ross Mankuta, a library liason in former SA President Kris Hart’s cabinet and Woodard’s vice president for academic affairs; Justin Neidig, SA Executive Vice President Anyah Dembling’s former chief of staff; Lee Roupas, former SA senator and presidential candidate; Aimee Schulman, assistant to former EVP Eric Daleo; and Chrissy Trotta, a former senator.
The other two scholarship winners were Catherine Clement, a Colonial Cabinet member and Class Council officer, and Go Kasai, chair of the Asian Pacific Islander American Organization Council.
Some students not involved in giving out the scholarships said the process by which applicants were picked amounted to “cronyism.”
But committee members said there was nothing conspiratorial about the awards process. “There was not patronage going on,” Schallop said. “It was a fair process. It wasn’t intentional. It was our first year doing it.”
Senior Kip Wainscott, another committee member who did not participate in the selection, said most awards went to SA members because they are in a position to know about the scholarships.
“I don’t think the students were handpicked by any means,” Wainscott said. “Those were the students fortunate enough to be in the know.”
Mary Ross, another committee member who has since graduated, called the process “impartial.”
“If other people would’ve applied, then other people would have had a chance at it,” she said. “I don’t think the process was done unfairly. I think more people should have applied for it.”
When the JCFS gives out this year’s awards, the scholarships will not total $7,000, but $20,000, an increase made possible by Student and Academic Support Services.
Senior Lee Roupas, who won a scholarship last year, now heads the JCFS and promised that the awards – which will increase from seven in number to “many more” – would be better advertised, and be “less of an insider-type scholarship.” (Roupas and the other JCFS members must be approved at a Sept. 10 Faculty Senate meeting.)
“It’s a lot of money, and that means a lot to students,” Roupas said.
He added, “We’ve got to show the administration that we’re advertising this more since they’ve been so generous to increase the scholarships.”
Schallop, who will begin her second year on the JCFS, said the committee would look to put scholarship advertisements in residence halls, elevators and on organization listservs and Web sites. The committee will also utilize campus mail and the financial aid office to get word out about the awards.