Tapping into thirst for space

April 28, 2011

The merit of a single idea is based on three different factors. First, it has to be the right idea. Second, it has to be the right time. Third, it has to be the right place.

On Tuesday night, the GUSA Endowment Commission—of which I was a member—made the correct choice in allocating the full amount of the $3.4 million available to both the Healy Student Space proposal and the Georgetown Energy proposal in its primary recommendation.

However, while I am signing my name to the Endowment Commission Report because I respect the process that has unfolded and believe that the Commission has reached consensus, I still believe the secondary proposal—which has a realistic chance of receiving funding—is misguided.

The Social Innovation and Public Service Fund, proposed by GUSA Senators Clara Gustafson and Nick Troiano, was made a secondary proposal, receiving $1.25 million if the Healy Space fails to materialize, which, in my opinion, is a very real possibility.

With that said, however, it is worth looking at the SIPS proposal in context of the three aforementioned factors. To begin with, SIPS is a great idea. It is quintessentially “Georgetown”—it fully promotes the idea of men and women for others. It would fund student social entrepreneurship, advance Alternative Spring Break programs, co-sponsor campus events, and provide student loan-repayment assistance to certain students.

Moreover, it is the right time for the SIPS Fund. Due to the current state of the environment, economy, and the education system in America, entrepreneurship and social change need to be available to students not just at Georgetown, but also at all ages.

Still, when it comes to the third factor—place—the SIPS proposal fails.

SAFE Reform opened up $3.4 million of Student Activities Fee money to be redistributed back to the student body. The money was initially for student activities, and it should be spent for that purpose.

The SIPS fund only impacts a very small portion of campus, and does very little for the majority of the student body. At full capacity, SIPS, according to my rough estimates based on direct funding to businesses and students, event co-sponsorships, a community service day, and the SIPS forum, the SIPS fund will impact about 500 of the over 7,000 undergraduates of Georgetown.

There’s just not enough bang for its buck. If SIPS gets the $1.25 million allotted to it in the secondary proposal, it will be affecting about 6.62 percent of the undergraduate population yearly—for 36.76 percent of the total money available.

The money distributed by the endowment commission was originally put into the endowment with the goal of improving the undergraduate experience at Georgetown. With that in mind, the highest quality recommendation should do the most to improve the undergraduate experience.

Proponents of SIPS have not agreed that the goal of the funds should be best improving the undergraduate experience. Instead, they wanted the endowment commission’s goal was “about realizing the very mission of Georgetown University—to empower students to lead and serve others.”

While that is a noble goal, in this circumstance, those are not the appropriate ends. The appropriate ends are a proposal that makes the undergraduate experience the best it can possibly be.

SIPS funnels Student Activities Fee money out of the hands of student activities and into the hands of Georgetown students who will be concentrating their efforts outside the front gates. It is not the purpose of the money, and is not making the undergraduate experience better for everyone.

Additionally, while SIPS would help the small amount of people who are interested in its capabilities, it wouldn’t even be able to affect every single person who wants access. Even though every student has paid into the Endowment since 2001, SIPS would not be open to all students—while everyone can apply, only a select few will receive funding because of monetary limitations.

Space proposals hit the nail right on the head. They affect a large amount of people, they can be used directly for student activities, and they address a Georgetown undergraduate’s most glaring need: student space. A quick glance at peer institutions around the country shows that Georgetown’s student space facilities greatly pale in comparison to our counterparts like Duke, Harvard, and Vanderbilt.

The secondary proposal should not have given money to SIPS. The $1.25 million will be better served to improve the undergraduate experience by further expanding the New South Student Center, Lauinger Library, or the omnibus space fund.

I will be signing my name to the Endowment Commission Report because I wholeheartedly believe that the Healy Space/Georgetown Energy split is the best way to spend the money.  If the Healy Space proposal never materializes, however, I will be voting “no” for SIPS on the student-wide referendum. I urge every undergraduate who wants to better the undergraduate experience to do the same.

Tom Bosco is a junior in the MSB and a member of the SAFE commission.

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