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Money with a mission
Vice President Joe Biden often says, “Don’t tell me what you value; show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” When looking at the final recommendation from the GUSA Endowment Commission, which passed up supporting the Georgetown Social Innovation and Public Service Fund in favor of allocating $3.2 million to the Healy Pub proposal, it’s difficult to tell what, exactly, our community values.
The commission had the opportunity to get behind a more balanced proposal—one that would have suggested allocating $2 million to developing student space and $1 million to the SIPS Fund—but by a single vote, the commission elected not to even consider it. This proposal would have impacted many students by expanding student space, and at the same time, empowering students to positively impact the world by investing in their own ideas and potential.
How the commission overlooked a transformative idea to enable students to create positive change and instead simply settled on reviving a campus pub was essentially a result of the following guideline issued by the GUSA FinApp committee: “All students paid the fee [to create the Endowment] and therefore the Endowment should benefit all students…”
The commission’s singular focus on finding a proposal that affected the most students was the principal reason why so many proposals, like the SIPS Fund, were passed up by the Endowment commission in favor of student space projects, like Healy Pub, which were seen to have “universal benefit,” since any student, as the commission astutely observed, can occupy space.
This was an overly simplistic framework that sold the potential of the endowment commission short. The commission decided to remove from consideration proposal after proposal that they did not think would directly affect enough students. In doing so, they tied their own hands so tightly that after over two months of hearing dozens of proposals, when it came time to vote on different slates of recommendations, the commission had only four proposals left to choose from: reviving Healy Pub, renovating part of Lauinger Library, contributing to New South Student Center, and putting solar panels on University townhouses.
Commissioners themselves were lamenting their own lack of creativity, after realizing that on the final evening of deliberations, they actually had little to deliberate about. Rather than realize their initial purpose, to solicit and recommend ideas from various stakeholders to determine the fate of the student activity fee dollars intended to support a wide range of projects and activities, the commissioners constrained themselves to being a commission on student space.
Space can certainly provide many things—a place to study, socialize with friends, meet a professor, and in the case of the Healy proposal, grab a beer. And the lack of student space is a problem on campus. But providing space is a primary responsibility of the University, not of students themselves through student activity fees.
Indeed, within the next ten years, the University will have made large progress to solving the student space problem by constructing the 30,000 square foot New South Student Center, without needing a dime from the student activity fee endowment. It is much less likely that over the next ten years, progress will have be made on the variety of other ideas presented to the Commission—including the SIPS Fund, which aimed to allocate over $100,000 each year to support student-led nonprofits and social businesses, alternative spring breaks, service initiatives, research projects, and much more.
Like us, you may remember vividly how President DeGioia pointed out during new student convocation how lucky we are to be living in a prosperous country and receiving a world-class education. It’s a privilege enjoyed by a fraction of a percent of the world’s population. President DeGioia instilled in us a sense of purpose to leverage our education to be men and women for others. The SIPS Fund was a proposal to unlock the potential of Georgetown students and their ideas to do just that.
To us, there was no proposal as worthy of consideration and support because there was no proposal as fundamental to why we are here at Georgetown: not just to occupy space, but to get out into the world and make a difference. Spending the endowment money should not be about maximizing individual benefit, but rather improving our community as a whole and fostering the virtues we pride ourselves on. We hope the GUSA Senate will reconsider the comission’s recommendation as the process continues.
Nick Troiano is a junior in the College and the former chair of the GUSA Finance and Appropriations Committee. Clara Gustafson is a sophomore in the SFS and a current GUSA senator. They spearheaded the SIPS fund proposal to the SAFE commission.