This past Tuesday was the first meeting of the Commission on Student Activities Endowment Reform, which has been tasked with spending the $3.4 million left over after SAFE reform passed last fall. The group will meet once every week until Apr. 25, when they will submit their plan to Georgetown University Student Association’s Financial Appropriations committee. The committee should keep some key things in mind as they begin their work. Specifically, committee members should appreciate the importance of looking at the big picture, making a long-term impact, and listening to the students, who this money really belongs to.
It is rare for students to have so much control over large sums of money, and the students chosen to serve on the commission should seize the opportunity to focus on broad issues faced by the student body. Their first concern should be addressing the need for more student space on campus. Last spring the Student Space Working Group compiled a report on the issue which concluded that most students consider Lauinger Library the center of campus life. It is an unfortunate reality that a poorly designed and poorly furnished library serves as the primary social space on campus. As students, we need a facility that adequately meets our needs. Thirty thousand square feet of empty space lie under New South ready to be used. The committee should seriously consider spending some of the millions to open this space up.
Although the allocation of the money will occur over a short period of time, committee members should consider projects that have a long-lasting impact. For almost a decade, students paid a fee that funded this endowment. Their contributions should not evaporate on one-time initiatives that do little to improve Georgetown in the long term. The initial purpose of the endowment will be done justice if the committee stands behind projects that can benefit the larger student body for years, or even generations, to come.
Another area of concern should be student feedback. The commission was selected to represent a broad array of organizations and includes a handful of “at-large” members. They must be cautious not to favor the groups they represent, and acknowledge their responsibility to the entire student body. It would be prudent to solicit feedback from students to ensure that there is a level of public discourse on the matter. Currently, the commission has planned two town hall meetings, but these need to be well-advertised and well-run, or, like many GUSA organized town halls, they will attract only a handful of students.
The members of the commission have a unique opportunity to bring significant changes to the Hilltop. But without prudence and an appreciation for the long term, that $3.4 million could end up being spent on a useless GUSA initiative, and that would be unfortunate.