Georgetown University Student Association President Calen Angert (MSB ’11) and GUSA Vice President Jason Kluger (MSB ’11) delivered on their campaign promise to create a GUSA Fund to provide an alternative source of club funding, but students have some doubts about how helpful the GUSA Fund will be.
On Sunday, the Senate passed a bill dictating that “the Fund,” also referred to as the Georgetown Fund or GUSA Fund, will have approximately $30,000 to co-sponsor events. The Fund will be administered by five members approved by the Senate, who will meet on a weekly basis to consider funding applications submitted online. The Fund can independently allocate up to $500 per request for an organization, event, or initiative, but the Senate must approve requests over $500. GUSA Senator Nick Troiano (COL ’11—Village A, A-D) said the Fund should be ready by December or the start of next semester.
Additionally, if an organization is not satisfied with the Fund’s response, it may appeal to the Finance and Appropriations Committee. Records will be made available online.
Angert said when he and Kluger decided to run for the GUSA executive, students had told them repeatedly that they needed additional funding for student organizations.
Currently only the Student Activities Commission can provide University resources like funding and space on campus to student groups. SAC Vice-President Chair-elect Harrison Holcomb (NHS ’11) said that from the perspective of the Office of Risk Management, SAC is responsible for all of the financial liabilities of student programming. Therefore, even if the Fund allocates money to an organization, the group must go to SAC to get the event pre-approved.
Vice President of the College Democrats Fitz Lufkin (COL ’11) said he is very excited about the Fund, but he is concerned about the potential for conflict between SAC and GUSA.
“If a club goes to SAC and is denied, and then goes … to the GUSA Fund and gets funding, that could create a potential conflict between SAC, which asserts the right to approve or disapprove all events, and then the GUSA Fund, which could possibly give this group funding when SAC had denied them,” Lufkin said. “I’m hopeful that wouldn’t happen, but [with] SAC as we all know, strange things have happened.”
Holcomb said it is rare that SAC entirely rejects an event, but because SAC still handles access to benefits, he does not think the Fund will make it any easier or more efficient for groups to plan events.
Holcomb also expressed concern that the Fund is not a sustainable model for the future. The Fund draws approximately $30,000 from a $69,687 reserve. Holcomb says there was an accounting glitch the first year after the implementation of the student activities fee in which SAC allocated more money in the spring than it received from the student activities fee in the fall. Every year since 1987, three percent of the student activity fee has been put aside in case of another accounting error, culminating in today’s reserve of $69,687. Therefore, the Fund’s $30,000 cannot be easily replenished since it took so long to accumulate.
Troiano countered that the Fund is not meant to be permanent, but to provide an alternative source of funding until broader club funding goals are achieved—to make SAC more accountable, more transparent, and more efficient.
Groups who have had problems receiving SAC funding appreciate GUSA’s measure.
Right to Life Vice President Brigid Bower (COL ’11) lamented SAC’s large unused reserves and the “tedious affair” of applying for SAC funding. She praised GUSA for listening to students and working on solutions.
“Since we have to go to SAC anyway, we’d probably try SAC first, and if SAC approves the event but not necessarily adequate funding, we’d go to GUSA,” Bower said.
Lufkin said the College Democrats ran into a problem this past spring when they submitted a budget “essentially equivalent” to the one they submitted the year before, but rather than approving the budget, SAC allocated less than the College Democrats needed for one event, according to Lufkin, forcing the College Democrats to apply for funding on an ad-hoc basis for individual initiatives. Lufkin said SAC also did not provide a “valid explanation” of why it chose to deny funding.
Additionally, Media Board Commissioner Jessie Chiang (COL ’11) said, in her opinion as a member of Media Board and as GUTV Editorial Director, that the more diverse sources of funding, the better. She said for large events such as a film fest, GUTV already solicits funding from more than one source.
Bower said she believes access to more funding is necessary, but the Fund “treat[s] a symptom but not the problem.” She agrees long-term reforms are needed and inevitable.
“What’s not efficient is asking a club to come before a board of a dozen or more people and justify every single expense for every single event,” Troiano said. “That’s bureaucratic. That’s micromanagement. That’s not giving Georgetown students the creative and intellectual independence they deserve.”
Lufkin agrees with Troiano.
“It’s always been our position that SAC is a funding board, as opposed to an advisory board,” Lufkin said.
However, Holcomb said SAC is by nature an advisory group responsible for upholding University policy. He said that part of his and SAC Chair-elect Ethel Amponsah’s (NHS ’11) “vision” is to advise groups, advocate for groups, and help them plan events.
I don’t know how easily GUSA will be able to make decisions … because there is sort of specific knowledge about what the rules are and what the policies are and what events have worked in the past and what events haven’t,” Holcomb said. “SAC wants to do what’s most efficient for groups and what works best for the groups, and I don’t necessarily know that the GUSA Fund in its current form is the perfect vehicle for that.”