The GUSA Finance and Appropriations Committee proposed a new reform to funnel the entirety of the $100 per-student mandatory Student Activities Fee toward student groups, in a move that could more than double organizations’ funding to between $650,000 to $700,000.
“We want to do a better job of addressing student need in the short run,” said committee member Tyler Sax (COL ’13) during a press conference held by Georgetown University Student Association’s Finance and Appropriations Committee Wednesday night.
Currently, half of the Student Activities Fee paid by all undergraduates is allocated to student groups, while the other half is placed into a special endowment.
Since it was established in 2001, the endowment’s accrued interest has been placed into a separate account as a result of a university clerical error. Currently, this interest totals about $500,000.
The endowment was originally intended to reach $10 million, at which point the interest would be enough to make the reserve self-sustaining. According to GUSA, however, due to the recession and the undelivered promise of a $3 million startup contribution from the university, the endowment now totals $1.9 million and will probably not reach the $10 million goal for several decades.
Members of the GUSA Finance and Appropriations Committee (Fin/App Committee) said that the current policy governing the fee and endowment is not functional. They presented a series of proposals at their press conference, the first and most influential of which would be to put all of the Student Activities Fee toward funding student groups.
“There’s no question over past years, the fee issue has been messy, but we [are] dealing with reality of today,” committee member Colton Malkerson (COL ’13) said.
The Fin/App Committee also proposed increasing the fee on a yearly basis to match the rate of inflation.
The Fin/App Committee hopes to maintain the current $1.9 million endowment as it is, without directing any new student fees toward the pool. Instead, the proposed plan is slated to take the money gained from interest and place the amount of inflation back into the endowment. For example, if the interest was 5 percent and inflation was still 3 percent, 3 percent of the interest would go back into the endowment while 2 percent of the interest would go into the Student Activities Fee.
Senators did not discuss how they would use the $1.9 million endowment, but said the matter would be treated at a later time, following passage of the referendum.
Members of the Fin/App Committee stressed that this proposal was only the first step toward more extensive changes.
“This is a starting point,” said Committee Chairman Greg Laverriere (COL ’12). We want to put something out there so that people can have a rough understanding of the possibilities.”
The next step to this reform is a series of two town halls to gauge student response. The first of the two meetings will take place on Oct. 27 at 8 p.m. in Reiss 112.
After fielding input from students, the Fin/App Committee will reconvene to discuss the feedback. For approval, the legislation will first need the support of two-thirds of the Fin/App Committee, followed by two-thirds of the Senate.
The Fin/App committee, along with six student chairs of the advisory boards, originally gained control over the student activities fee funding through the 2006 Accountability and Reform referendum. Last year, GUSA passed sweeping legislation to make the seven members of the Fin/App Committee the sole voting members.
As for the actual timeline of the legislation, Laverriere said that the deadline for the referendum is the budget summit next spring, but that GUSA hoped to complete the process sooner.
If the referendum is passed, GUSA will evaluate the proposals of student groups to determine the allotment of the interest fund and student activities fee. Laverriere said that SAC and club sports were high on the list for funding increases.
“If the referendum goes forward, hopefully a lot of people will support it, but it should be important to note that this is not just opening the floodgates, there will still be a very responsible allocations process,” Malkerson said.”