In a few short weeks, the Student Activities Commission will consider budget submissions from over 105 student organizations, the largest number of groups that has ever been funded. For this current semester, SAC had $103,190 to allocate to all our groups. We received well over $200,000 in requests and had to pare those down to $161,900 that we felt were reasonable.
Dividing $103,190 by $161,900 yields a percentage of 63.73, which is the rate at which we funded reasonable requests. This is the lowest scale cut that we have ever had, and we are expecting an even lower one for next semester, as spring programming requests are usually more ambitious than fall programming. In addition, we expect to be funding upward of seven more groups than last semester, further adding to our load.
Clearly, a change needs to be made. I propose an overhaul to the club funding system that drastically changes the way money is delivered to clubs, yet still maintains the current advisory board framework.
First, the Student Activities Fee needs to be raised. It currently sits at $153 per year, which is one of the lowest SA Fee rates among our peer institutions. I propose a modest $47 raise, to $200.
Every undergraduate pays this fee, which is allocated every year by the Finance and Appropriations Committee of the GUSA senate. FinApp allocates to the seven advisory boards (SAC is the largest of these), along with things like Georgetown Day, Georgetown Programming Board and Homecoming. Last year, the total collection from the SA Fee was $998,400. Raising the fee to $200 per person would result in over $1.3 million in collections.
After the fee is raised, the manner in which it is distributed must be modified. First, I propose that the bulk of the SA Fee be allocated by the Council of Advisory Boards, which is the body that is made up of delegates from all seven advisory boards, rather than by FinApp. FinApp would receive about $300,000 to allocate to other miscellaneous entities, such as those mentioned above. CAB would receive slightly more than $500,000 to allocate out to the advisory boards, because the members of said boards should be deciding how much funding they need, rather than a group of GUSA senators with less of a direct connection to actual student groups.
That leaves an amount just shy of $500,000 still to be allocated. I propose that students themselves — with the exception of freshmen — should directly allocate that money. Each upperclassman would be able to directly control half of their fee, $100.
On “Allocation Day,” they would use a web application to directly allocate their SA Fee into the account of the group or groups of their choosing. Freshmen would not allocate under this system; rather, their full $200 would go to CAB and FinApp. I see freshman year as a trial run, a time to try many organizations to find the right fit, which is why one should be given the privilege to directly allocate beginning as a sophomore.
This model could drastically improve student life at Georgetown. The raised fee means that even if organizations were not collecting as much as they expected from their membership, their advisory boards would still be there to back them up. Funding decisions would be put more in the hands of students, and less in the hands of a small group of GUSA senators. Large organizations would continue to benefit, and small organizations with dedicated membership would have the potential to drastically raise their budgets.
Many organizations would be able to exist purely on collections from their memberships, without funding from their advisory boards. This could free up money for large conferences for SAC groups, or better-funded trips to national championships for club sports athletes. It would also encourage students to more deeply immerse themselves in the experiences offered by their organizations.
If people are allocating their money directly, they will feel more of an affinity for a group and will be encouraged to attend more events, engage with more people in their clubs and ultimately build a stronger community on the Hilltop.
Patrick Musgrave is a junior in the College. He is chair of the Student Activities Commision.