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GUSA announces Student Activity Fee reform

October 21, 2010


GUSA FinApp Committee members held a press conference on Wednesday to discuss Student Activity Fee reforms.

On Wednesday, the Georgetown University Student Association Financial and Appropriations Committee announced that it will now appropriate the entirety of the $100 yearly Student Activities Fee toward funding student clubs through the Advisory Boards.

Since 2001, half of the student activities fees paid by undergraduates have gone to an endowment that was supposed to have accrued enough interest by now to be self-sustaining. That endowment, now at roughly $1.9 million, is not expected to mature for some 15 years.

GUSA FinApp Committee members held a press conference on Wednesday to discuss Student Activity Fee reforms.

Using the full $100 fee toward club funding will effectively double the amount of money available for student groups.

“All the clubs should be supportive of this,” Colton Malkerson (COL ’13) said. “There are no downsides to expanding funding for groups.”

As part of the reform, FinApp also plans to increase the Student Activities Fee on an annual basis at the current rate of inflation.

The increase, Greg Laverierre (COL ’12) explained, is necessary because even though the money now available to clubs has doubled, the prices of the basic items that clubs must buy are rising at the rate of inflation.

The Committee also plans to divert the interest that is accruing on the $1.9 million endowment into the funds available for clubs, leaving enough so that the endowment continues to increase at the present rate of inflation.

The changes will need to be ratified by a two-thirds majority in the GUSA Senate and approved by a simple majority of undergraduates in a student body referendum.

The FinApp Committee will hold town hall meetings in the coming weeks to discuss the proposal, draft the referendum questions, and address other ideas for endowment reform.

The recent reforms do not address the $1.9 million currently in the endowment, which according to Laverierre, is “a separate issue that needs a lot more discussion.”

“There’s no question that over the past years, since the establishment of the endowment, it has been messy,” Malkerson said.

Members of the FinApp Committee said they remain open to student input on how to use the $1.9 million and they will discuss this at the town hall meetings, too.

“What it’s going to look like, we don’t know yet,” Chris Pigott (COL ’12) said.

The FinApp Committee is hoping to put all three reforms to a vote before next spring’s budget session at the end of February. The committee wants a maxium number of students to participate, so that, according to Laverierre, “there is no question that [this decision] will confer legitimacy.”

Malkerson said the FinApp Committee is already anticipating the consequences of effectively doubling funds available for student groups, but said that the funding boards will still be fiscally responsible.

“I’m sure there will be a tendency of the advisory boards at the budget summit to come and ask for a lot more money,” Malkerson said. “There is still going to be a very responsible funding process.”



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Comments 11

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    FINALLY!!

    Thank you, GUSA.

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    Wasn’t that endowment supposed to have hit $10 million by now? Do they have a plan about what to do next?

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    ‘FinApp also plans to increase the Student Activities Fee on an annual basis at the current rate of inflation.’

    Effectively raise taxes on students who already pay 50k a year for a sub-par education during a recession? Yup, sounds like the DC mindset alright.

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    @Makaveli
    It wasn’t supposed to have hit $10 million by now, but we definitely should be closer than we are now. There are a couple of reasons why we’re not. First, the endowment is held in shares of the university endowment, and as such is subject to all the economic shocks that have damaged university endowments around the country. Second, when the endowment was first proposed ten years ago, the university made various noises about supplementing its growth through capital campaign. That effort failed to materialize. Third, last year’s GUSA Senate discovered that the yearly interest on the endowment had, in fact, been being skimmed by the university and returned to the general endowment. Upon discovering this fact we secured the return of that interest, but the fact that it hadn’t been compounding over the last ten years limited the growth of the endowment for obvious reasons.

    In terms of what to do with it now, I think GUSA understands that that needs to be a lengthy discussion. I would imagine that the upcoming town halls will be efforts to solicit ideas, but as of right now it doesn’t look to me like there will be a decision made via referendum on what to do with the endowment this year.

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    @JM:

    You do realize that you’re bitching about a 2-3% increase in your annual Student Activities Fee of $100, right? This comes out to……$2-$3?

    I don’t know about you, but I’d be thrilled with doubling the amount Georgetown spends on student activities if it only means paying $2-$3 more.

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    So a fund that was supposed to secure the future of Georgetown activities instead gets spent over the next couple of years to provide a brief and unsustainable bump in funding. This has the self-gratifying impulses of the current Senate administration written all over it. Do these guys ever do anything other than have catfights and spend our tuition money?

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    @Demosthenes

    Again, that’s not the case at all and that’s certainly not what this article says. The boost in funding comes from raising the percentage from 50% to 100%. This will be a permanent and sustainable doubling of club funding. The question of what to do with the accrued endowment is another conversation entirely that should be held separately within the larger campus community. Could it be used for a capital project? Maybe. Maybe a scholarship fund? Perhaps. Saved for a rainy day? Who knows. There are a world of options available to us. I think you would find that everyone in GUSA would agree that using the endowment to create an unsustainable club funding level would be in nobody’s interest, least of all GUSA’s.

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    @ATalbot

    But the entire purpose of the endowment was so that students would be able to enact change on a bigger scale than is possible in the current system of a budget from the Student Activity Fee. Even if we raise the percentage to 100% and forgo the endowment’s future growth, we will never be able to make changes on a large scale – like adding more student space, funding a GUTS bus route, maintaining a variety of campus websites, etc. By focusing on the short term, we allow an opportunity as students to take more ownership of services at Georgetown to disappear.

    What’s better – this year, my club can hold an extra event and provide better quality pizza, or we eventually use a $10 million endowment’s annual interest to heed the Student Space Working Group’s advice and give every organization a new place to meet and hold events? Forgoing the chance for a strong, independent, student-focused endowment – considering an administration that can’t even provide us with basic necessities like weekend GUTS bus routes – is a mistake.

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    @James Pickens

    It would be nice to do those things, but what you’re suggesting isn’t the current purpose of the endowment. The endowment that was created by referendum over a decade ago was intended to be a static endowment, meaning that once the endowment reached $10 million it would stay there such that the yearly interest offset the annual student activities fee. As soon as you begin spending out of that endowment in any capacity, you are acting contrary to the original purpose of the endowment. That’s why a referendum is required to do anything to it.

    Secondly, the university has made it clear through their actions over the past decade that they don’t really have any intention of supplementing the endowment. This means that in order for us to reach $10 million, the student body of Georgetown is looking at another 35 years of paying into this thing before it is self-sustaining in 2000 dollars. This is nothing like a sensible policy. Given inflation and given changing club interests and needs on campus, it’s not sensible to continue handicapping ourselves for a pipe dream.

    Also, suggesting that the only outcome of this will be that clubs can “hold an extra event” as a result of this is pretty glib. What students will be looking at if this reform passes is a GPB that has double the resources for concerts, Club Sports that can fund double the number of tournaments, a SAC that no longer has to put a pinch on the activities of smaller clubs on campus, etc.

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    A devil’s advocate should always be glib! I concede that there will be more real benefits than extra pizza, and I’m very excited to see the possibility for more concerts and sports tournaments. Forgive my cynicism, but based on experience I’m still not holding my breath for a SAC that works more for small organizations than against them.

    What I hope we can work on in the future is changing the style of administration that goes back on its word of supplementing an endowment purely for constructive student activities. I am glad GUSA re-secured the endowment interest, but I think we should take a step further and ask for compensation for the assets the administration withheld from students over the past decade. Maybe while we hold the referendum to change back to a 100% usage policy of the fee, we could also pass something that publicly confronts administration policy that works against students.

    Regrettably, considering the administration’s actions in the past surrounding this endowment, GUSA also might want to act somehow to make sure that the $1.8 million in the endowment now remains under the control of students rather than the administration. This way, we have a real say in where the money goes that we have contributed over time.

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    “Even if we raise the percentage to 100% and forgo the endowment’s future growth, we will never be able to make changes on a large scale – like adding more student space, funding a GUTS bus route, maintaining a variety of campus websites, etc. By focusing on the short term, we allow an opportunity as students to take more ownership of services at Georgetown to disappear.”

    That doesn’t necessarily follow. There is no mandate that all of the additional $315,000-$350,000 must all go to the advisory boards. Students with good ideas can propose additional ways to use the money — and, indeed, I hope they do. Additionally, there’s still the question of the $1.9m endowment, which at a 5% drawdown produces at least another $100,000/year.

    Believe me, if people have good ideas to use the money, they should propose them. SAFE Reform just puts the money back into the pot — how to spend is an as of yet undecided question.


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