GUSA shouldn’t control student fees

December 3, 2009

Between finals, basketball season, and impending holiday vacations, Georgetown students would be forgiven for missing the ongoing dispute between the Georgetown University Student Association and club funding boards. But if students don’t pay attention to GUSA’s funding proposals, they’ll miss one of the most significant—and most potentially damaging—changes to campus life in recent years.

GUSA kicked off its funding reform movement last month by creating the Georgetown Fund, which will use money from funding board reserves to form a GUSA-controlled fund for clubs. While the Georgetown Fund makes the already byzantine club funding process more confusing, and raises questions about GUSA’s ability to distribute funds effectively, it does not seriously threaten Georgetown’s funding structure.

More concerning is legislation, currently under consideration by GUSA’s Finance and Appropriations Committee, that would affect distribution of the Student Activities Fee. Currently, the fee is divided between GUSA and six funding boards, including the Advisory Board for Club Sports, the Student Activities Commission, and the Georgetown Programming Board. Each board currently has a vote on how the funds are distributed. The new legislation would strip funding boards of their votes, reducing them to mere advisory bodies, and give GUSA sole control over distributing hundreds of thousands of student-provided dollars per year.

This legislation would threaten the funding sources for clubs and sports teams that receive a cut of the Student Activities Fee through their funding board. Club sports teams, for example, rely almost entirely on the fee for their budgets. Denying the Advisory Board of Club Sports a vote on the distribution of the fee could threaten the future of Georgetown’s successful club sports teams. At best, funding boards would have to grovel to win the support of GUSA senators. At worst, successful clubs that have improved student life could be forced to stop operating due to GUSA’s uninformed decisions.

Although the reform affects all six of the funding boards and their clubs, it’s hard to believe the legislation isn’t aimed at SAC, the Finance and Appropriations Committee’s long-time bete noire. SAC has repeatedly and imperiously ignored compromises made with GUSA over appointments of SAC commissioners. In a GUSA survey conducted in November, leaders of clubs that receive SAC money gave SAC the lowest ratings of any advisory board.

Clearly, there is a need to reform SAC, but there is no reason why reform needs to jeopardize other, more functional funding boards. Giving the Senate absolute control over the fee threatens student clubs and student life on campus, and should be opposed.GUSA shouldn’t control student fees

Editorial Board
The Editorial Board is the official opinion of the Georgetown Voice. Its current composition can be found on the masthead.

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Comments 8

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    I think this article is speculative at best. What it assumes is that if these changes were to go through, GUSA would not change to fit the needs of the advisory boards. Currently GUSA has one senator who is a liaison to each respective advisory board. If GUSA would be given the responsibility to allocate funds each year those respective senators would obviously gather as much information as they could about their boards financial needs and work as advocates on their behalf. This editorial seems to be trying to create fear among the students that GUSA will become some tyrannical power, when it is ironically the only organization in this situation which is beholden to the people and ultimately responsible to their wishes unlike the current system where clubs are being mistreated by some of these boards. Fear mongering is a very irresponsible way of presenting an opinion and shows the lack of a reasonable argument.

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    I second Tim. A few things this Editorial, sadly, doesn’t mention, but would have been very helpful in coming to their conclusion:

    1. As an aside, it repeats as ‘fact’ that the Georgetown Fund will make the process of receiving funds even more bureaucratic and byzantine. No explanation is given as to why. This is especially confusing given the rather long debate that was going on about the Georgetown Fund and other funding criteria that definitively shot down that idea. See: http://blog.georgetownvoice.com/2009/11/23/funding-board-leaders-roundly-reject-gusa-fund/#comment-415181

    2. The EdBoard doesn’t talk about the fact the situation of unanimous consent has stymied very popular legislation from going through owing to funding boards unanimously disagreeing, despite the fact that GUSA Presidents were elected with huge mandates to enact it. E.g. the Summer Fellows program being cut down significantly (one of GUSA’s biggest successes) and the Club Fund (the progenitor of the Georgetown Fund) being left off the table for two years.

    The fact is that the current system isn’t working. The EdBoard could have at least addressed this and made their own suggestions (e.g., switch to majority vote, or 2/3rds vote).

    3. The fact that advisory boards necessarily pursue their own interests. It’s like pork-barrel politics: You don’t want to vote down someone else’s proposal, because yours might be on the block, too. Just look at, for example, Nick Calta, of the Advisory Board for Club Sport’s, talking about how he was very irked that CSJ’s $6,000 budget request was approved but his $7,000 one wasn’t (when they were for two completely different things).

    4. But finally, the biggest issue I have with this editorial is that it doesn’t at all address the fact that most advisory boards are not elected, accountable, open or transparent. Frankly, I don’t see why we should give votes to advisory boards that elect themselves and don’t record their votes.

    I would not necessarily be opposed to boards that have followed the six guidelines for reform to be allowed to have a seat at the table, because they will have transformed themselves into accountable, efficient and transparent organizations.

    Until then, however, no.

    And that the Ed Board doesn’t even address any of these problematic issues is just sloppy journalism.

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    Oh, I forgot the most important point:

    5. Any bill passed by the Finance & Appropriations Committee must get the approval of 2/3rds of the Senate and the GUSA President (or override his veto).

    So, let’s say, extremely hypothetically, that for some reason the FinApp committee voted to strip Club Sports completely of its budget. Do you really think that it would get 2/3rds votes and the agreement of the President?

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    isn’t a 2/3 vote an override already?

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    Yes, but the President can still do a perfunctory veto that at least sends it back to the Senate / delays, giving his reasons for opposing it. It may sway some votes, may not. Of course, if everyone holds together, it’s a veto override.

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    I actually never said that CSJ getting money and club sports not getting money bothered me. It bothers me that my proposal included more specific numbers and yet was deemed “too vague” by GUSA senators while none of them had problems with the vague nature of the GUSA fund proposal. As far as I know, I’ve never discussed CSJ’s proposal outside of Funding Board meetings.

    Fact-checking is a bitch, isn’t it?

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