Ask almost any club on campus: funding student activities is a problem. Club Sports scrounges every year to take consistently competitive teams to national tournaments. The free newspapers that used to be a regular fixture of campus mornings are nowhere to be found. Georgetown’s WGTB Radio doesn’t have a standing concert budget, and, as a result, has difficulty making long term plans or bringing in high profile acts for campus concerts.
Six advisory boards share the responsibility for the convoluted process that allocates funds to student clubs. These six boards — the Georgetown University Student Association, the Student Activities Commission, Club Sports, the Performing Arts Advisory Council, the Media Board, and the Center for Social Justice — control the money that comes from the Student Activities Fee.
SAC is by far the biggest advisory board with 90 clubs to oversee. However, SAC has a nasty reputation for denying clubs’ requests for money.
“When I became SAC Chair, one of my friends asked me, ‘How does it feel to be the most hated person on campus?’ and that’s kind of true,” SAC Chair Aakib Khaled (SFS ‘10) said.
All this animosity means one thing: SAC needs to change the way it grants funding to clubs.
The good news is that there is more than one option on the table. The most ambitious is GUSA President Calen Angert’s (MSB ‘11) dream of a Georgetown Fund, which would be a new advisory board for students to come to for cash, particularly ones that want to bypass SAC’s nitpicking.
Angert and other GUSA members are still looking for the money to create the Georgetown Fund, but they shouldn’t waste their time. The fund would needlessly complicate the existing system on campus, especially if it would draw from the same pool of money that SAC and other groups already use.
Moreover, if a SAC club went to the Georgetown Fund to get extra money, a SAC Commissioner would still have to approve the club’s activities, according to Khaled. This redundancy would make the Georgetown Fund too much of a hassle to be worth using.
SAC reform is a better option. If SAC does not increase its transparency and accountability, those reforms may never happen.
Take, for instance, the way SAC Chairs are named. Last year, as a result of a battle with GUSA over accountability issues, SAC promised to select their chairs by a committee that would include a current GUSA representative.
However, no such process occurred when the 2010-2011 Chair, Ethel Amponsah (NHS ‘11), was named a few weeks ago. Instead, Amponsah was named quietly by her fellow board members.
Khaled insists that SAC is trying to implement some changes that would increase their transparency and accountability. The problem is, however, that without a higher organization to report to, the groups is reforming at its own pace.
Club funding is going to be a hot-button issue this year, and changing the process won’t be easy. The solution lies in the willingness of SAC and GUSA to cooperate with one another. GUSA needs to decide to work with SAC, not attack it. Extending its recommendations for SAC to the rest of the funding organizations, for instance, would not only show that GUSA doesn’t have a vendetta against SAC, but also that it wants to improve club funding across the board. SAC, for its part, should recognize that making itself accountable to GUSA can only improve its relationship with the student body.
If GUSA and SAC try to act separately, they will only complicate things further. In order to make the improvements that the fund-allocation process so desperately needs, they must work together.
Is club funding your hot button issue? E-mail Lillian at firstname.lastname@example.org