Money for Japan quake aid will go to UI scholarships

A University of Illinois fund established earlier this year to help victims of the Japan earthquake has been reworked and instead the money will be used for scholarships for students.

A few days after the 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit Japan, causing a tsunami and devastation throughout the east side of the manin island of Honshu, the Japan House on campus organized a press conference and announced it would set up the Illinois-Japan Disaster Relief Fund. Organizers said they wanted to provide direct support to the people of Japan.

However in the weeks following that announcement, university legal counsel advised the College of Fine and Applied Arts, of which the Japan House is part, that such a fund did not comply with the bylaws of the UI Foundation, the private fundraising arm of the university.

Money raised through the university "has to benefit the educational mission of the university ... support students, faculty, something to do with campus infrastructure. ... not transferred to an organization outside of the foundation," said Roger Laramee, assistant dean for development at the college.

At the time of the announcement, organizers said they planned to work with the consulate general of Japan in Chicago and the Japan-Illini Club on how to distribute the money.

"We just wanted to do the most we could and try to help the Japanese people as much as we could," Laramee said.

Legal counsel wasn't consulted until after the announcement.

"We've had to make a little bit of a change in the plan," he said.

The university considered sending UI students to Japan where they could directly help with the recovery efforts but with the continuing concerns about the nuclear reactors, "we couldn't justifiably send young people into that situation," Laramee said.

"The next best thing is to meet the needs of the university and the foundation and create the scholarship fund," he said.

The fund was renamed the Illinois-Japan Disaster Recovery Fund and money raised will go to establish scholarships to support incoming or current University of Illinois students whose families have been financially or physically devastated due to the event.

Letters have been sent to donors explaining the situation and the university has offered to refund their donation if they wish.

As a result, the university refunded about $6,000. The fund currently has about $30,000 in it.

Most of the money raised was received within the first couple weeks of the actual earthquake. People throughout Illinois donated; most were from the Champaign-Urbana community.

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UIUCHoopFan wrote on June 09, 2011 at 11:06 am

Please refund my contribution. I would like my money to be used for the purpose for which it was intended. Isn't this called "Bait and Switch"?

sameeker wrote on June 09, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Leave it to the U of I to figure out how to line their own pockets. They and their lawyers are nothing but greedy scum.

thorx wrote on June 09, 2011 at 10:06 pm

This is absolutely unacceptable!

"Money raised through the university "has to benefit the educational mission of the university ... support students, faculty, something to do with campus infrastructure. ... not transferred to an organization outside of the foundation"

Spoken like a true bean counter/bureaucrat. $40,000 could help provide support for a lot of people whose lives were devastated by a truly biblical disaster. But by all means go ahead and keep the money to benefit the University rather than sending it where it can truly help improve lives.

Say you broke the "rules" and sent the money to Japan to aid with relief efforts. What Court or governing agency is going to punish you for helping earthquake victims? Because you'd rather follow a rule, you are doing more to damage the University's reputation which is already on a steep down slope.

For God sakes, just get someone in authority to sign off on a fund transfer to an account that is appropriate for the job at hand and help those poor people!

And if helping people that are thirsty, hungry, homeless and whose lives have been destroyed due to a natural disaster isn't part of the University Mission, perhaps it should be.

You should be ashamed of yourselves.

cwdog57 wrote on June 10, 2011 at 7:06 am

i think we should change the name of our state to "OIS". as the university is " ILL- IN- OIS"

sameeker wrote on June 11, 2011 at 11:06 am

Don't forget that the university will help themselves to a nice administrative fee out of the money.