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What would you do with $4,000? Spend it on conferences for student government leaders? Didn’t think so.

Unfortunately, that’s how the Undergraduate Assembly might spend some of your money next year, by funding a program called Ivy Council.

Since its inception, the Ivy Council program has grown into a parasitic weed that squanders hundreds of dollars each year. After numerous restructurings, the program’s ultimate goals — and the benefits it provides to Penn’s student body — remain extraordinarily unclear. Despite this, the UA has continually funded the Council with student money year after year — and plans to do so again next year to the tune of over $4,000.

It’s time for student government to stop wasting our money on this bureaucratic boondoggle. UA members need to remove Ivy Council’s funding from its 2010-2011 budget immediately.

Created in 1993, Ivy Council originally intended to bring together student government leaders across the Ivy League to share ideas and discuss policies. Since the Council was considered part of Penn’s student government, the organization often received funding directly from the UA rather than having to compete for Student Activities Council money.

As the years wore on, though, Ivy Council struggled to remain relevant. The Council has expanded to include community service programs, but the UA has become increasingly wary. Many admit the Council still hasn’t delivered results.

“Nobody really knows what the money’s going toward,” said 2009 alumnus and former UA Chairman Wilson Tong, who pushed the UA to explore the issue during his tenure. “We didn’t see many tangible benefits from people going to these conferences or brainstorming sessions.”

Yet because of constant miscommunication and confusion over Ivy Council’s relationship with the UA, the Council has received over $7,000 since 2004, according to budget documents. And here’s the punchline: that $7,000 comes from the general fee that students, like you and me, pay every year.

I contacted the head of Penn’s delegation to the Ivy Council, College junior Mo Shahin, but he ultimately declined to comment for this column. I also expected many UA members to defend Ivy Council, since the UA helped create it. But even UA Chairman and College junior Alec Webley said “Ivy Council needs to accept that it no longer has a role in student government.”

“There is a need for interschool relations,” he added. “But instead of these expensive conferences, we’re using new technologies that are 100-percent free to facilitate communication. Frankly, we don’t need a huge network of middlemen.”

UA member, former Daily Pennsylvanian columnist and College junior Emerson Brooking agreed: “Ivy Council seems like an organization founded for the sake of a fancy title and check mark on the resume,” he said.

Instead of getting preferential treatment, Ivy Council must compete for SAC funding like every other student group, Brooking said. I agree.

So why does the UA plan to give over $4,000 to the Ivy Council next year?

During Sunday’s budget hearing, UA members suggested that miscommunication between both groups was to blame. But regardless of whether mistakes were made, the student body shouldn’t have to pay — again. By continuing funding for Ivy Council, the UA elongates a break-up process that has dragged on for years. Worse, it could provide some basis for funding this program again in the future.

I sincerely commend the UA for the transparency it has brought to the budgeting process. Thanks to the UA Budget Committee’s efforts, student groups may see needed funding increases.

But $4,000 is a lot to pour into something that hasn’t delivered results. Like a weed that refuses to die, Ivy Council has wasted our money for too long. The UA must kill this program — for good. Ashwin Shandilya is a Wharton senior from New Market, Md. He is the former Marketing Manager and Editorial Page Editor of the DP. His e-mail address is Penn vs Sword appears on Thursdays.

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