Landmark vote: GUSA consolidates power over activity fee

February 11, 2010

The Georgetown University Student Association Senate passed a bill to strip advisory boards of their votes in the allocation of the Student Activities Fee by a vote of 19 to four at their Monday night meeting. The bill, which faced strong opposition from the advisory boards, gives GUSA’s Finance and Appropriations Committee sole control over the allocation process.

In the previous system, the seven members of the Finance and Appropriations Committee and one representative from each of the six advisory boards voted on allocating the funds from the fee at the annual spring Budget Summit. Under the new bill, however, members of the Finance and Appropriations Committee will analyze the advisory boards’ positions and then propose a budget, which must then be approved by two-thirds of the general Senate and by the GUSA president.

Several amendments were added to the bill on Monday night, including requirements that the process involve faculty oversight, and that members of the Finance and Appropriations Committee attend comprehensive information sessions about the funding process.

One proposed amendment, which would have created a formal appeals process for advisory boards that feel they have not been allocated adequate funds, was tabled until the Senate’s next meeting. Many Senators, including the bill’s co-sponsor Colton Malkerson (COL ’13), argued that such an amendment was unnecessary and would drag out the budgeting process.

“There’s already an inherent appeals process built into the system. [Advisory boards] can talk to the FinApp Committee, they can talk to the Senate, they can talk to the Executive,” Malkerson said. “[With the proposed amendment] you’d see appeals each year [which] could tend to bog down the Senate.”

While the bill’s co-sponsors, Malkerson and Finance and Appropriations Committee Chair Nick Troiano (COL ’11), expressed enthusiasm about the bill’s passage, advisory board leaders are worried what the implications will be for their future budgets.

Donna Harati, the chair of the Center for Social Justice’s Advisory Board, said she is concerned about the timing of the allocation process. Under the new system, the budgeting process will not begin until after GUSA’s presidential elections are decided, leading Harati to worry that her groups will not have enough time to start planning large-scale events for the upcoming year.

“Our biggest concern is how this is going to affect our time line,” Harati said. “It is really going to throw our process into disarray.”

Malkerson said the Finance and Appropriations Committee will be spending the next few weeks working on the logistics of the new budgeting system. After the GUSA presidential election is over, he said, the committee will start looking at the next aspect of its funding reform campaign, changing the structure of the Student Activities Fee Endowment.

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