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GUSA endowment commission proposals take shape
GUSA’s Student Activities Fee Endowment Commission held its inaugural meeting Tuesday evening to discuss the allocation of $3.4 million to campus projects.
A provision of SAFE reform allows GUSA’s Finance and Appropriations committee to allocate the $3.4 million Student Activities Fee Fund and accrued interest. GUSA established the commission to determine how the endowment money will be allocated, pending final approval by FinApp.
The committee consists of representatives from GUSA, the Corp, GUASFCU, and each of the seven club funding boards. Several at-large student representatives also sit on the committee, including chair Andrew Curtis (MSB ’11).
Curtis was selected by GUSA due to his independence from other interests already represented.
“I think the commission is founded on that principle that it’s well represented from many different organizations on campus,” he said.
The commission will meet every week to consider allocation proposals submitted by students and groups until Apr. 25, when it is due to present its recommendations to FinApp.
The Commission can allocate the $3.4 million to a maximum of five projects, although GUSA representative Colton Malkerson (COL ’13) noted that FinApp could raise that cap if necessary.
“We have a chance here to hugely impact student life, and concentrating on tons of small projects might dilute that impact,” Malkerson said.
The funding board representatives agreed to contact clubs from each of each of their respective groups in order to solicit project ideas. Submissions will also be solicited through an online form made available Wednesday.
In addition to the online form, groups will be able to discuss ideas with commissioners at two town hall meetings, scheduled for Mar. 26 and Apr. 9. The group has set midnight on Apr. 10 as the cut-off date for submissions.
Curtis said that despite the compressed timeframe he was confident by GUSA and SAFE reform for the process to run smoothly.
“About three years of thought have gone into this,” Curtis said. “I really see this as sort of the final step in this process.”
Several groups are already developing proposals for allocations from the endowment.
Former FinApp Chair Nick Troiano (COL ’12) and GUSA senator Clara Gustafson (COL’ 13) have created a website for their own proposed initiative, the Social Innovation and Pubic Service Fund.
The proposed SIPS fund would exist as a separate endowment to provide grants to service initiatives and social entrepreneurship by Georgetown students. Troiano said he was inspired by the $50 million Social Innovation Fund created by the Serve America Act in 2009.
“Nationally, we’re entering in this new era of citizen service for people at a local level,” Troiano said.
According to Troiano, he and Gustafson intend to seek $1.5 million to seed the endowment and ideally raise at least an additional $500,000 from alumni donors, with the interest on the endowment funding SIPS grants.
“Our goal is to allocate at least $100,000 per year,” Troiano said. “We think we can make a significant impact by investing that much money.”
Troiano listed a number of possible projects for the fund, including providing seed money for social entrepreneurial projects and businesses and offering loan assistance to students pursuing public sector careers.
“[Non-profit and public sector jobs] are relatively low paying, and student debt has never been higher,” Troiano said. “Through loan repayment assistance we can incentivize students to continue on a public service track.”
Several other groups are also laying the groundwork to present proposals to the Commission.
Rich Rinaldi (MSB ‘12), representing the Media Board on the commission, said in an interview that he and New Media Center head Beth Marhanka were discussing a potential submission by Lauinger Library.
“We’re talking a lot about group collaboration areas in which students can congregate and interact with each other,” Rinaldi said, listing space renovations or investments in new furniture as potential investments.
Commissioner Melissa Miller (COL’ 12), representing PAAC on the commission, noted the significant need for renovations and structural improvements to performing arts spaces.
“I’m hoping to look at the proposals that are submitted as a person in the performing arts community,” Miller said.
However, Miller said that she believes the commission will ultimately focus more on notable, longer-lasting projects.
“With $3.4 million we could do so much on campus in terms of … all these little projects, but I don’t think ultimately that’s going to be what we end up wanting to do,” Miller said. “I think there are some smaller dollar value but essential improvements that could happen.”