The University owes its students $3 million, plus nine years’ interest. That’s the sum it promised to contribute to the Student Activity Fee Endowment in 2001. But it never did, and for the last 10 years, the Student Activities Fee Endowment has stagnated without its support. With that money, the endowment today would be much closer to maturing to the point where its interest would be a sustainable source of funding for student groups, thus eliminating the need for an annual fee.
While the university reneged on its initial promise to kick start the fund, 10 years of Georgetown University Student Association leaders have also failed to hold administrators accountable for their actions. The current endowment, a mere $1.9 million, now has no chance of maturing for over 15 years. As GUSA senators renew their focus on funding reform, they must learn from the University’s broken promises.
The initial GUSA proposal for the SAFE assumed that Georgetown would contribute $3 million dollars. In the February 22, 2001 issue of the Voice, Chief Financial Officer for the University Provost Darryl Christmon said “I don’t think the Board had any reservations about it; [the donation] is a minor fee in our schedule.” Although the Board of Directors approved the proposal to donate $3 million of the University’s money, SAFE never received those funds. GUSA must put a sustainable system in place to ensure that Georgetown delivers on any future promises about contributing to student initiatives.
Last week, GUSA announced that it had successfully secured the interest on the SAFE, which until recently the University had been returning to its own general endowment. GUSA also proposed important steps to achieve the original goal of the endowment, including suggestions to allocate the entire Student Activities Fee to club funding. Moving forward, the system must ensure that students’ money is put to good use, rather than wasting away unchecked in a stagnant endowment.
It is now clear that the SAFE will never receive the money Georgetown promised. The administration is partly to blame, since it did not deliver promised funds even after it formally approved the donation. In the future, whatever reforms GUSA does implement must be more sustainable. The funding reforms that emerge over the next year can work, but only if GUSA senators avoid the problems of mismanagement and inattention that doomed the SAFE to failure.