The Georgetown University Student Association Senate unanimously passed the final club budget for the 2021 fiscal year at its online meeting, approving funding cuts to the Student Activities Commission, the Media Board and the Center for Social Justice, among others.
The budget, formulated annually by the GUSA Finance and Appropriations Committee, included cuts to the Media Board and the CSJ. Club Sports and the Performing Arts Advisory Council received bumps in funding. After hearing appeals to the initial budget request, FinApp allocated an extra $43,500 to the Student Activities Commission on March 29, which still saw a $7,548 and 2.48% cut in funding from last year.
FinApp also increased funding for the GUSA Executive team, Campus Ministry and Georgetown Opportunities for Leadership Development. The committee kept funding for Lecture Fund, Transfer Council and Outdoor Education constant from last year’s totals, while the Georgetown Program Board received a $943 cut, a 0.67% decrease in funding from the 2020 fiscal year.
The FinApp Committee also decided to liquidate the recently established Student Empowerment Fund for the 2020-21 fiscal year. Two-thirds of the student body voted to create the fund, which would pool money over the course of 16 years to bankroll campus projects of interest to the student body.
FinApp cut funding to the SEF to focus on rebuilding campus organizations after the university’s transition to virtual learning March 13, according to GUSA Senator and FinApp Chair Juliana Arias (SFS ’20).
“In light of the exceptional circumstances we find ourselves right now, we decided that it must be a great challenge for advisory boards to take on and rebuild that campus life,” Arias said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “We believe that the best way to utilize the idea of empowering students is that of granting advisory boards the money that they needed to rebuild campus.”
The majority of the fund was transferred to the SAC, which finances over 120 campus clubs, because of its current insufficient funding and importance on campus, according to Arias.
“SAC right now is in a very weak financial position,” Arias said. “It is not so much that we believe that SAC deserved the money; it’s more in terms of how SAC’s financial status is going to affect other clubs on campus.”
FinApp transferred $43,500 of the SEF’s $50,000 to SAC. The rest of the fund would be distributed between other advisory boards. FinApp originally proposed a $51,048 slash to SAC funding in the initial budget. The initial budget cut triggered backlash from student activists who complained the cutbacks would injure campus club culture.
GUSA senators have raised concerns about SAC’s financial management. FinApp was reluctant to allocate more money to SAC because of these concerns, according to Arias.
“In light of the financial distress of the Student Activities Committee (SAC), the Committee deemed necessary the extraordinary support of this advisory board despite their unfortunate financial execution,” Arias wrote in the final budget report.
GUSA has been working with SAC officials to reform the committee’s financial practices, according to GUSA Senator and SAC liaison Henry Dai (SFS ’22) (Full disclosure: Henry Dai previously served as a sports writer for The Hoya).
“SAC continues to be the fastest-growing advisory board, and has recently demonstrated commitment to comprehensive reform aimed at greater transparency and accountability,” Dai wrote in a statement to The Hoya. “I believe in engaging with our advisory boards in encouraging sensible and essential reforms, and was encouraged by constructive conversations between SAC and FinApp.”
SAC leadership said the final budget report released by FinApp contained several misleading statements about the board.
“The report contained several false statements that all boil down to essentially the same mistaken idea, namely that FinApp ‘bailed out’ SAC at the expense of other advisory boards. That is simply not true,” SAC Chair Jake Menz (COL ’22) wrote in an email to The Hoya on April 1.
Menz said the additional $43,500 will significantly benefit the clubs under SAC but is not enough to satisfy all of the commission’s needs.
“The increase in funding that we saw after appeals is hugely important to our groups,” Menz wrote. “Although that increase is still not nearly enough to meet the demand that our groups are placing on our funding, we believe that we can now more effectively sustain group life by funding more of the programming that groups have come to see as integral.”
Many of the cuts to advisory board funding were because of the lack of money FinApp had to distribute this year, according to Arias.
“We had less money, and we had less wiggle room,” Arias said. “So that’s something that affected us greatly.”
The new student activities budget doled out $80,000 to the Media Board, marking an 11.43% cut in funding from the previous year. Funding for the CSJ, which amounted to $128,000, was cut by 18.22%. The Media Board originally requested $126,941 for 2021 and the CSJ asked for $161,000. FinApp boosted the Media Board’s initial funding by $5,000 after the appeals process.
The Media Board supports the majority of campus media organizations including The Hoya, The Voice, The Anthem, The Caravel, Bossier Magazine, WGTB Georgetown Radio, GUTV and The Georgetown Review, among several others. The cut to the Media Board will hurt all media organizations but would especially target newer and smaller clubs, according to Media Board Chair Courtney Lee (COL ’20).
“Cutting our funding would be detrimental to new clubs, because they require a lot of funding to get on their feet, so it is critical that our barest needs are met,” Lee said during the remote FinApp Appeals meeting March 20. “Even just a few thousand would mean protecting some of our smaller organizations, but things would still be difficult.”
The Media Board planned to allocate $28,000 of its requested funding toward printing, Lee said at the meeting. Many GUSA senators voiced their concerns over the Media Board’s large amount of spending on printing, including GUSA Senator and FinApp member Sam Dubke (SFS ’21).
“Weekly print media on a college campus is a dying and wasteful industry, and the businesses underneath the Media Board should divest from weekly print editions,” Dubke wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Lee said printing is not only essential to media organizations but also beneficial to students who participate in print media.
“The statements that print is dying and that students do not read each other’s works are based on bad-faith arguments,” Lee said. “Print media teaches skills to our students that cannot be taught anywhere else. Our printed products are works of art themselves, which cannot translate well to online.”
The proposed FinApp budget would also deliver a significant slash to the CSJ, which funds over 40 campus organizations, such as Hoya Helpers, Best Buddies Georgetown, Hoyas for Immigrant Rights, HoyaTHON and Relay for Life.
In light of the new budget cut, the CSJ Advisory Board for Student Organizations is doing everything it can to support the affected organizations, according to ABSO Treasurer Rachel Newman (NHS ’22).
“Given that there were unexpected cuts, we are still figuring out our budget,” Newman wrote in an email to The Hoya. “As a baseline, we want to say that we are still doing all that we can to support our student organizations.”
The CSJ will likely be able to recover from the cut, however, because of the large amount of money they have in reserves from several years of unintentional underspending, according to GUSA Senator and FinApp member Eric Bazail-Eimil (SFS ’23).
“I personally felt as though, given their history of unintentional under-spending (that emphasis is very important, this has never occurred because of any intentional acts by the CSJ-ABSO), they could best weather the cut to their spending,” Bazail-Eimil wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The article was updated April 5 to clarify the position of a GUSA Senator.