Boards fight for funding changes

December 3, 2009

After two hours of combative debate at the November 23rd Funding Board meeting, the Georgetown University Student Association and the six advisory boards that fund student clubs are still at odds over the Comprehensive Club Reform Bill that GUSA recently passed.

“They just picked [the reserve limits] out of the air,” Chair of the Advisory Board for Club Sports Nick Calta (COL ’10) said. “Advisory boards know better [than GUSA] what they need.”

Much of the conflict stems from the provision in the GUSA bill prohibiting advisory board’s reserves from exceeding 10 percent of their total annual spending. Colton Malkerson (COL ’13), one sponsor of the GUSA bill, said the provision will prevent advisory boards from hoarding money.

The advisory boards, which are financially liable for the events they approve, argue that they need to hold large sums in reserve in case club revenues are far lower than expected or a particularly large event needs funding.

Harrison Holcomb (NHS ‘11), Vice Chair-elect of the Student Activities Commission, said that a review of business risks by Lynne Hirschfeld, Associate Dean for Finance and Administration, determined that a proper reserve for SAC would be around $220,000 or $225,000. The current reserve value is $219,000. If SAC’s reserve was cut to 10 percent of its annual spending it would be reduced to about $66,000.

Calta called the 10 percent figure arbitrary, and said reducing reserves so drastically could be dangerous.

“[Under GUSA’s bill] all we would need is three to four teams to have bad years [for our reserve] to be down to zero,” Calta said.

Under the GUSA plan, reserve money would be consolidated into one large fund that all six advisory boards could draw from if needed.

Although the bill says GUSA will withhold student activities funding from advisory boards that do not follow GUSA’s recommendations, Malkerson conceded that some advisory boards will need more than 10 percent of their total year spending in reserve.

“If Media Board or [Performing Arts Advisory Council] really feels that they should have large reserves, then that’s perfectly fine,” Malkerson said, adding that the 10 percent figure would not apply to every board. “Circumstances are different for every advisory board, and we are going to take that into consideration.”

Malkerson said the recommendations are more loose guidelines than rigid requirements.

“At this point, none of [the recommendations] are binding,” Malkerson said.

During the debate on the bill, Finance and Appropriations Committee Chair Nick Troiano (COL ’11) urged his colleagues not to cast a yes vote unless they were “prepared to stand by the resolution.” According to Troiano, GUSA passed a similar reform bill last year, but when the advisory boards threatened to withhold funding from clubs, GUSA backed down and gave the boards funding from the student activities fee anyway.

Other recommendations in the GUSA bill include giving the clubs the option of lump sum funding, creating an appeals board, giving clubs control over money they fundraise, instituting a system to insure that advisory board members are accountable to the clubs they represent, and posting advisory boards’ minutes and votes online. GUSA is also seeking $30,000 to start  its own Georgetown fund, an initiative that the six advisory boards voted against.

Troiano says he has received positive feedback from club leaders about the funding reform. College Democrats Vice President Fitz Lufkin (COL ‘11), said he was pleased with the reform.

“I think this does a good job of making sure the advisory boards will function the way they are supposed to function,” Lufkin said.

The funding board is scheduled to meet again on December 7.

Additional reporting by Lily Kaiser

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