Every person in a dorm or house pays social dues at the beginning of the year, and the dorm uses that money to plan and execute events for the dorm community. The dorm is supposed to use all of that money, and many dorms do. But in some cases, for whatever reason, a dorm does not use all of its social money. For example, I ran into a bunch of people this week who casually told me that their dorm still had 10,000 dollars.
Common sense would dictate that unused money would go back to dorm members; as it stands, though, housing policy prohibits this action.
Currently, if a dorm has leftovers, “any unused money will be funneled into a fund allowing [dorm] alumni to plan reunion parties.” The dorm is not allowed to refund money, nor is it allowed to use it for any other purpose than future reunion-type social events. I can see this being well-intentioned: housing wants to encourage dorms to use their social dues for social events, and if there is the possibility of refunding money or donating it elsewhere, dorm staff might feel pressured to not plan events.
The problem is that the system fails in reality. Dorms like the one above with huge surpluses are never going to use that much money for dorm reunions, if they even occur. As a result, these dorms have thousands of dollars at the end of the year and very few days to either spend it or essentially lose it. So they do what most people would do: they spend it in any way they can, which usually means going out to dinner with a small group of people from the dorm at the most expensive restaurant they can find.
This is not to vilify those people who do this: they are using money that will otherwise go to waste. But I believe we all can think of many more useful ways to use this money if the policy were to allow it: namely, either refunding the money back to residents or donating it to a local charity. Since some dorms still have leftover funds even with a policy that prohibits any incentives to not spend it, it is clear that some dorms will just not use up all their money. To not have a more flexible refund policy in these cases is extremely inefficient, not to mention frustrating.