Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Budgeting 101: Gonzalez Reduces Cuts

Ruthie Braunstein/The Hoya Vice President for Student Affairs Juan C. Gonzalez has been working on the university’s budget since his arrival on the Hilltop. Juan C. Gonzalez is no stranger to budgeting crises.

The Vice President for Student Affairs is demonstrating his budgeting skills, having reduced a potential 10 percent, or approximately $900,000, Student Affairs budget cut announced in September 2000, to 3 percent.

Physical resources, Gonzalez said, are still a concern for the university and the student body in general. Georgetown will again see if the vice president will show himself to be a budgeting “genius” as he has in his previous jobs.

Gonzalez was the Vice President of Student Affairs at California Polytechnic State University, where he was forced to seize control of the student government – a $10 million corporation – and deal with suc issues as student embezzlement and severe bureaucratic inefficiencies.

“When I made the decision [to seize control of the student government] they though I was an ogre,” Gonzalez said. With significant restructuring, “two or three years later I looked darn near genius.”

Gonzalez’s assistant, Student Affairs’ Senior Business Manager Lynn Hirchfield, confirmed that Provost Dorothy Brown asked for a Student Affairs budget cut and consideration of a 10 percent reduction.

Initially, the news created an uproar as students began to consider the possibility of losing valuable space and funds that they had relied on to run their clubs and pay for their extracurricular activities.

In September, then-GPB Public Relations Chairman Randy Rivera (COL ’02) characterized the news as “ridiculous.” Rivera said, “they asked us to do our jobs, which is to program and give students alternatives to drinking, and they’ve cut our ability to bring the big names that students want to see on campus.” (“Student Affairs Budget Cut by $900,000,” Sept. 15, 2000, pg. 1, The Hoya).

According to Gonzalez, the $900,000 cut was only a possibility his office had evaluated. The actual cut was closer to 3 percent, he said.

At the very early stages, according to Gonzalez, “the problem that they had asked us to consider evaluating was the possibility of approximately a 10 percent reduction – a 10 percent reallocation. It was a starting point.”

As he said he would in September when news of the cuts was released, Gonzalez sat down with heads of different programs and departments and tried to assess where the money could come from and what kind of cuts could be made.

Originally, a major chunk of the 10 percent reduction was slated to come from the Department of Public Safety, but this department received only a minor reduction, Gonzalez said. “There just wasn’t a desire on our parts to affect the safety and well-being of our students by having them shoulder a significant reduction,” he said. He also said that Volunteer and Public Services funding would not be cut.

Student Activities Fee

With the recent passage of a GUSA referendum approving a student activities endowment and a funding board, budgeting and funding for student activities will be changing significantly. Figures show the money available for student activities and clubs will increase. Gonzalez said the increase would be between $386,000 and $699,000.

The increase is due, in part, to the $25 per semester fee to begin next year. The fee will eventually increase to $50 per semester. Half of the fee will be set aside for a student endowment, half will go to increase funding student activities.

The university has also said it will allocate $3 million of the Third Century Campaign’s funds to the endowment. The campaign is the university’s $1 billion fundraising effort spearheaded by University President Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J.

Despite increasing the funds available to student groups, the endowment and fee have not been unanimously supported within GUSA. Sophomore Class Representative Trey Street (COL ’03) abstained from the GUSA assembly’s vote on the funding plan, saying he supported an endowment but felt a fee was inappropriate. He said the administration is “mismanaging the money,” adding that he felt students “shouldn’t have to assume responsibility for it.”

The proposal’s sponsors, sophomore GUSA representative arty LaFalce (COL ’03) and senior class representative Catie Sheehan (COL ’01) were enthusiastically supportive of the plan saying, “it will drastically increase the opportunities [clubs] will have.”

Gonzalez also said he was satisfied with the change in funding and a student activities fee, saying, “This means students will have more of an ability to do more programming, the quality of programming will increase, the frequency and all kinds of variables.”

Despite his support, Gonzalez wished to remind students that with increased activities come increased facilities, maintenance and other fees because of increased usage of VPS vans, classrooms, office space and other facilities and resources. The additional use of resources, Gonzalez said, is not accounted for in the monetary increase, which could force clubs or the university to pay higher rates for use of space and for cleanup, thus reducing the available moneys for clubs.

Clubs now pay a minimal fee, or rent space from the university, paying little or nothing for the maintenance, set-up, clean-up and use of campus space. Since increased activity would necessitate more use of space on campus, the university would see a increase in the facilities and maintenance work load. The added cost of hiring more workers, security and paying utilities has not been figured into the increase. Fees could increase, or a crunch for more space could result. Gonzalez also said Georgetown needed to consider a look at all of its resources not merely financial but real assets, as well. (“Student Affairs Budget Cut by $900,000,” Sept. 15, 2000, p.1, The Hoya)

Gonzalez has said the university will not decrease its funding of student activities in the foreseeable future, but he was appreciative of the way the plan was designed.

“I’m somewhat grateful that we’ll gradually increase the fee over the span of three years,” he said, because it will make budgeting easier in the future.

His predictions for the future of the budgeting under the new system were positive, but he was unsure of the final outcome. “I don’t think we’ve fully realized the potential impact this will have,” Gonzalez said.

As with any funding proposal, according to Gonzalez, “there has to be some forethought.” He emphasized that GUSA had presented him with a comprehensive plan for spending student money, so he was happy to give his approval, but Gonzalez has denied funding in the past for a lack of preparedness on the part of students.

Activities were given an extra $100,000 this year to allocate, but before Gonzalez would release the funds he said he would require funding boards to submit proposals for the money to show him “forethought.”

Meeting Goals

When Gonzalez came to campus, he spoke with a reporter from The Hoya to enumerate his goals and thoughts on issues such as funding. Now into the second semester of his tenure at Georgetown, students are faced with numerous revisions to current funding plans and even student government.

In August 2000 Gonzalez said, “In a very general sense, my sense is that as I begin my first year here, I am going to begin doing a bit of an environmental scan of the quality of the student experience and the kind of learning and the kind of quality of the experience that is occurring.”(“Georgetown Welcomes New VP,” Aug. 25, 2000, pg. 1)

That experience is dependent, at least somewhat, on the amount of resources and capital provided, Gonzalez said, “But resources may not mean just fiscal resources.” Resources, according to Gonzalez, could include guidance for planning activities, space concerns, funding and training in resource management and leadership. If students have resources but do not understand how to use them efficiently “we are not looking at a complete equation,” he said.

When the original 10 percent cut possibility was announced, then-Lecture Fund Vice Chair Brian McCabe (SFS ’02) said, “The issue needs to be that Georgetown needs to better spend money. We’re not using money in the best way we could.”

At that time GUSA Vice President Jacques Arsenault (COL ’01) said he was not overly concerned about the cuts, “as long as we’re brought in before the completion.” (“Georgetown Welcomes New VP”)

Gonzalez dismissed the idea of instituting an activities fee in the wake of these possible cuts, but it was the students who decided to impose the fee on themselves to increase funding.

The budget, including the 3 percent cut, will go into effect on July 1, 2001. However, Gonzalez indicated students should expect that programming and funding will not be affected, aside from what has been proposed and approved by GUSA and the students this year.

In his initial August interview with The Hoya, Gonzalez posed several question he said he would be evaluating over the course of the year. These included, “Are we providing students with the appropriate guidance and advice as to how to plan their extra-curricular activities? Do we have sufficient space? Do we have sufficient funding? Are we able to train students in leadership positions?”

It is these questions that Georgetown students are now beginning to answer.

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