The GUSA Senate voted to pass their budget this week with twenty-six senators in favor, one senator opposed, and two abstentions. The meeting Wednesday night ended almost two months of internal politics and controversy over club finances. It seems that senators ultimately believed failing the budget would do more harm than good, despite concerns about fiscal irresponsibility on the part of both campus clubs and GUSA.
GUSA President Calen Angert (MSB ‘11) started what became a month-long discussion about clubs’ hundred-thousand-dollar reserve funds when he addressed a Senate meeting in late March.
According to Senator Johnny Solis (SFS ‘11), Angert pressured other GUSA members to oppose the current budget, in order to create a new budget that would give GUSA control of the money in specific funding boards’ reserve accounts. Angert allegedly wanted the money for what he called the “Georgetown Fund,” $60,000 for GUSA to disburse without involving SAC or other student funding boards.
Angert abruptly changed his mind at the meeting, saying that although he didn’t like the budget the Senate was considering, he believed lack of funding would hurt some clubs too badly for the budget to fail. Other senators who had previously spoken out against the budget, notably Senator Tim Swenson (COL ‘10), also cited the needs of campus groups when they switched tactics and called for it to pass.
It is unclear why Angert and those who agreed with him softened their stance, but their change of heart may have been due to the presentations that key club heads made during the meeting.
According to Senator Matt Wagner (SFS ‘11), “What changed everyone’s minds was putting a human face on SAC, and the presence of Club Sports and the Center for Social Justice.” Previously, SAC had been faulted for the amount of money kept in reserve, which chair Aakib Khaled (SFS ‘10) estimated to be about $195,000. However, he did say SAC was working to decrease their reserves by spending money on things like office spaces.
Khaled also reiterated a statistic he cited in an e-mail to SAC club heads on Sunday: if SAC did not receive the $52,000 it planned to receive from GUSA, it would have to reduce spending by 25%. Khaled remained in the room for the duration of the meeting.
Other funding boards said their financial situations could be far more dire. Nick Calta (COL ‘10), chair of the Advisory Board for Club Sports, put the consequences for his group in stark terms.
“If this budget doesn’t get passed, we won’t get 93% of our funding,” he said. “Sports could die out if they don’t get funded next year.” Calta said club sports needed its money most in late August and September, meaning it was impossible that his board could survive the summer if GUSA passed a second draft of the budget in the fall.
In the end, even the senators—who had previously rejected the budget because they believed SAC’s reserve fund was swollen—voted to approve the budget. Swenson voiced what seemed to be the prevailing opinion in the room.
“If we fail this bill, everyone’s getting punished for certain acts of certain groups,” he said. Although Swenson had written an e-mail saying he was “skeptical” about the budget less than twelve hours before the meeting, he voted to approve it.
Vice Speaker Nick Troiano (COL ’11) cast the sole vote in opposition of the budget. GUSA had previously passed a resolution stating that the Senate would not pass a budget until student funding boards made the allocation process more transparent; Troiano was the only senator who reiterated GUSA’s original concerns.
Speaker Reggie Greer (COL ‘09) disagreed with Troiano’s notion that the Senate had an alternative to passing the budget that night.
“I am relieved and thrilled that the budget was passed,” Greer said. “With respect to my vice speaker and some of the others, people check out by Georgetown Day. If I thought another meeting could take place [to draft another budget before the end of the year], I would have loved to come back and consider this.”
Greer added that the chances another budget could be drafted and passed by the funding board by the close of the academic year “were slim to none.”