Members of the Georgetown University Student Association Finance and Appropriations Committee have circulated a petition through social media this week seeking to establish a Student Empowerment Fund.
The Student Empowerment Fund would appropriate money from the Student Activity Fee budget to help bankroll large campus projects, according to the petition. The FinApp Committee would allocate $50,000 from the approximately $1.09 million Student Activity Fee budget to create the fund at the start of the fiscal year 2021, with continued allocations being made in coming years.
The Student Empowerment Fund would offer students important leverage in negotiations with the university and increase the influence students have over university initiatives, according to GUSA Senator Eric Bazail-Eimil (SFS ’23).
“Money speaks when you can negotiate on a project and get what you need,” Bazail-Eimil said in an interview with The Hoya. “Money shows that students would be interested in it, that students have power there and want to be engaged with the decision to spend that money overall.”
In 2001, GUSA began setting aside funds from the Student Activity Fee to sustain club funding in the long term, according to the Georgetown University website. GUSA began apportioning these funds to campus projects in 2010; the $2 million fund was then designated to help establish the Healey Family Student Center in 2011.
The goal of the Student Empowerment Fund would be to emulate this success, according to Bazail-Eimil.
“We envision it to look sort of like what happened when GUSA dissolved the first student endowment to help create the Healey Family Student Center,” Bazail-Eimil said. “Our end goal would be ultimately that we have that money and follow that similar role, where we can get involved in these projects, hold the administration accountable and then also advise them on what students want out of the spaces they are creating.”
The fund is expected to grow from $50,000 with continuous mandated annual allotments at an approximate interest rate of 3%, according to GUSA Senator and Finance and Appropriations Committee member Peter Hamilton (COL ’20). After the fund appreciates for 15 years, GUSA will consider student recommendations for where to direct the money, according to the petition. The university establishes plans for new projects and programs every 20 years, with Fiscal Year 2036 designated as the next planning period.
To implement the fund, the GUSA Senate would have to pass bylaws outlining the structure of the fund, according to Hamilton. However, organizers decided to first launch the petition to gauge student support for the initiative. Hamilton did not disclose how many students have signed the petition.
Ultimately, the fund would grant future students more power in campus affairs and planning, according to FinApp Committee Chair and Senator Juliana Arias (SFS ’20).
“The general consensus of FinApp was that this is our chance to empower future Hoyas,” Arias said in an interview with The Hoya.
The previous endowment process in the 2010-11 school year involved the creation of a GUSA-appointed Endowment Commission and a university-wide referendum. GUSA hopes to enact similar measures in the future to enhance student involvement in the process of allocating the money, according to Hamilton.
“The idea would be that ideas for spending the fund would be brought to the student body either through a referendum or through petitions, so we get a process where the average student is informed about how the money is being spent and actively supportive of the ideas that are being promoted,” Hamilton said in an interview with The Hoya.
If the Student Empowerment Fund were to take effect, GUSA plans to create a student committee to oversee the allocation of the money, according to Arias.
“We would create a body in GUSA that would allow student representatives to come over and present their proposals for different projects in the future so that they can use that fund,” Arias said.