College Corner with Money Man, Simon Zhu ’11

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Photo by Ellen Sanchez

Simon Zhu ̢۪11 is the SBC director, crucial to ensuring that the student activities budget gets to the necessary people to keep social life at Swarthmore active and varied. The Daily Gazette sat down with Zhu to talk about what it̢۪s like overseeing the Student Activities Fee and its fruit, his snappy style, and when he̢۪ll find the time to dance again.

DG: What are some of the most intriguing budget requests you guys have gotten? Most expensive, your personal favorite?

Zhu: One that comes to mind is the famous chicken coop proposal. I thought it was a very interesting idea but at the same time it is a little weird to bring chickens onto campus. But I thought that was pretty quirky and if that had gone through it certainly would have been something very unique about Swarthmore. But I think they had other problems outside of funding, so that fell through…Right now there was a proposal last week from the Good Food Project. They want to essentially have hanging gardens in the passageways between Science Center and Martin Hall and I thought that was really interesting, sort of another peculiar proposal. In terms of high cost proposals, usually it’s big ticket events like bringing a band or performance to campus. We actually today approved a proposal for about $3,000 from the Fun Fund, which is separate from [the regular budget] and that we were actually contributing to this performance, this play that will probably go on within a month or so. Originally she came in, the person who was proposing, something like $7,000, so first reaction was, Well, see if you can find any other funding, and she actually got it down by like something like $3000 so we were all very impressed and decided to give her full funding.

DG: Any advice to any groups how to make your proposal stand out or stronger?

Zhu: So first thing I want to off-the-bat say is that if students have any questions they can just shoot me an e-mail because I’m very glad to work in person on any sort of proposal. It’s always good to be very detailed, to explain what the money’s going to because the committee likes to know what money is being spent on and based on that whether or not it’s something they can really support. It helps if you tie in the proposal to your group’s charter, your group’s mission. If the committee clearly sees that, off the top of my head, the Russian club is hosting a very Russian event, so to speak, that’s obviously something that will push the committee to fund the event.

DG: Last year I know you participated in Mr. Swarthmore, representing SBC as Mr. SBC. Did you have fun? Any plans to try for the crown again?

Zhu: I actually am still trying to forget about that.

DG: Was it embarrassing?

Zhu: That’s one way of putting it. But no, I don’t think I’ll be doing it again. I will probably be trying to get one of the other SBC members…

DG: Tell them that it’s their turn to carry the burden?

Zhu: [Laughs] Yes, I mean, the argument last year was that I was assistant manager so I had to do it.

DG: Pay your dues kind of thing?

Zhu: Yes, exactly, but now that I’ve progressed onto the manager’s role I believe I get to choose this time.

DG: Any plans to return to a former interest [next year when you have more time if you’re not the SBC manager anymore]?

Zhu: You know one thing I would like to give a shot is taking a taking a few dance classes, maybe joining the salsa or tango club, giving that a shot.

DG: You’re known around campus for being quite a spiffy dresser, so what or who is your style inspiration, and how do you manage to continue to hold yourself to such high standards on a jean and t-shirt campus?

Zhu: I don’t really have a specific style role model, I guess. Living in New York City you see all sorts of things, but I just in general try to keep an open mind and I think in general the idea is to, I mean the idea for me, is to not be afraid to take risks. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. If I look back on the progression of my style, if you will, I started with something very sort of basic, very concentrated an then over time I opened my mind to trying different color combinations, that kind of thing. And so it develops, it’s just something that develops, and as long as you keep an open mind and are willing to take some risks, I think it just works out.

DG: What would characterize your style as currently?

Zhu: I don’t really know. It’s not something I really think of, or try to put in a box, largely because what I really do see it as developing strength and I can look at, pick out a certain article closet from my wardrobe and be like, oh this was around that time when I was wearing this kind of stuff and be like, how has that changed since then? What would I do differently with that now? That’s never really been the sort of way I approached it, I guess. It’s always just been keep your mind open, be willing to try different things, and see where it takes you.

DG: Final question: You mentioned dance and I have very fond memories of some Pub Nite dancing, and I was wondering, I haven’t seen you around recently so I was wondering if perhaps you’ll find the time in your busy schedule to take some time for yourself and will come back and send us seniors off with a good dance.

Zhu: I’ll definitely make sure to say good-bye to the senior class in an appropriate and heartfelt manner. I don’t have any exact dates set aside, but I will do my best.

DG: So we’re going to have to go to each one just to make sure [we’ll see you]?

Zhu: Oh, of course, of course!

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