The Georgetown University Student Association Senate unanimously voted in support of a bill to dissolve the GUSA Fund, a committee that redistributed a small part of the student activities fee to clubs that request additional funding, at its weekly meeting Oct. 20.
Senators voted to amend the GUSA bylaws to eliminate the GUSA Fund, an executive-appointed, five-member committee to the senate finance and appropriations committee, according to GUSA senator Harrison Nugent (SFS ’20), who introduced the legislation.
Under the new system, all clubs will apply directly to the FinApp committee for ad hoc funding. Granting funds will be up to the discretion of the 12-member FinApp committee, which votes on a majority basis whether to approve a request.
The FinApp committee is the body that allocates the student activities fee, an $84 semesterly fee paid by students to fund seven student group advisory boards, the Georgetown Program Board, the Georgetown University Lecture Fund and the GUSA executive.
The GUSA Fund historically managed approximately $15,000 and distributed it to various student organizations that applied directly for additional need-based funding, according to its Facebook page. The GUSA executive’s discretionary funds, which fluctuate yearly based on FinApp committee deliberations, determined the fund’s resources.
In March 2019, GUSA’s total funding, which includes the GUSA Fund, faced a drastic cut, receiving only 11% of the money requested from the FinApp committee during the club funding process. GUSA executives Norman Francis Jr. (COL ’20) and Aleida Olvera (COL ’20) were awarded just $1,735 in the budget approved by the FinApp committee March 17, with the money for the GUSA fund coming from that amount.
The previous year, the FinApp committee granted the GUSA Fund $13,955.
Dissolving the GUSA Fund will not negatively impact campus organizations that use it for additional club support, Nugent wrote.
“I think this bill helps clubs in the long run because, if Club X keeps having to request ad hoc funding from FinApp, members of FinApp are specifically equipped to provide a long-term solution to this club by adjusting their advisory board’s allocation,” Nugent wrote. “If clubs are keeping good financial records and show a demonstrated need for ad hoc funding, they will have nothing to worry about.”
The ad hoc funding will still be set by the president and the senate speaker at an annual budget summit, according to Nugent.
Though Francis and Olvera plan to sign the legislation, the pair expressed concern over the FinApp committee’s ability to fulfill GUSA Fund’s role as an executive-appointed funding source.
“We made it clear that we want to preserve GUSA Fund as a power that is held within the exec, but we want to respect the Senate’s decision and work with them to find an optimal solution that does not completely erase the executive’s oversight of GUSA Fund,” Olvera wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We believe that by removing the executive team from control of GUSA Fund, we lose out on what GUSA Fund was created for.”
Despite intentions to approve the bill, the administration believes the transition of the GUSA Fund will disproportionately affect underrepresented populations on campus.
“In our conversations with student leaders across campus, many women-led and minority-centered groups that have utilized GUSA Fund in the past have expressed their dissatisfaction with the funding boards,” Aleida wrote.
The structure of the new legislation does not encourage the FinApp committee to disadvantage minority groups on campus, according to Nugent.
“There is no incentive on the part of any FinApp committee to cut costs by rejecting funding to minority and women’s based organizations,” Nugent wrote. “This bill was approved unanimously by the GUSA Senate specifically because it addressed those concerns, and any allegations of this nature are not validated by the facts of the bill.”
Former senator and transition FinApp chair Matthew Buckwald (COL ’20) introduced legislation to amend the GUSA bylaws to abolish the GUSA Fund on July 29 but resigned before the GUSA senate could officially vote on his legislation.
After Nugent introduced an act to abolish the GUSA Fund in the transition senate Sept. 15, Francis and Olvera expressed support for the GUSA Fund, arguing that many organizations that benefit from the fund serve women and minority students. That legislation was met with criticism, and Nugent ultimately pulled it from consideration.
Transitioning control of the fund will better meet the needs of the students, because the senators who compose the FinApp committee are directly elected, according to Nugent.
“I think that this bill will truly increase oversight of the money GUSA allocates because FinApp is composed of elected representatives, has weekly public meetings, and publicizes all of its meeting minutes,” Nugent wrote.
During the elections for committee leadership, Nugent and Juliana Arias (SFS ’20) both ran for FinApp committee chair on opposing platforms on the GUSA Fund. While Nugent called for dissolving the fund, Arias supported the GUSA Fund and called for ways to reform it instead. Arias won and became the current FinApp committee chair.
“GUSA fund will stay, but we don’t have set parameters for how it will be reformed,” Arias wrote in a September email to The Hoya.
But when Nugent introduced the new legislation Sunday, Arias voted in support of dissolving the GUSA Fund.
The new funding mechanism will support student organizations better than the GUSA Fund, according to Arias.
“The new bill will help the Senate better represent the student body and its needs when it comes to club funding allocation,” Arias wrote in an email to The Hoya, “As a Result, funding will be allocated more efficiently and distributed based on individual clubs’ needs, catering to the interests of our student body.”