The Georgetown University Student Association senate may be replaced next year with a new GUSA assembly — a body consisting of elected students and appointed club advisory board members to appropriate club funding — pending a senate vote and studentwide referendum this fall.
The proposed assembly will consist of both representatives, students who are elected by peers in their class, and delegates, voting members appointed by each of the six advisory boards to represent them in budgetary discussions. This structure will include advisory boards in the negotiations process.
Student representatives will work with a delegate from a club advisory board to advocate for its allocation of the student activities budget. Currently, the senate’s Finance and Appropriations Committee — known as Fin/App — hears presentations from advisory boards, the Georgetown Program Board and the Lecture Fund before submitting a budget to the senate for approval.
Representatives will be entitled to vote on legislation — including resolutions and potential referendums — and budgets, while delegates will only vote on budgetary issues.
The move marks the most significant change to the elected body since GUSA established the senate in 2006.
GUSA is currently meeting with advisory boards to finalize the new structure for the senate before the proposal is formally released in an Oct. 30 senate meeting. The senate is slated to vote on the proposal Nov. 6. If approved, a referendum to replace the senate with the assembly at the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year will take place Dec. 1.
The new assembly is intended to create a more democratic funding process for clubs, according to GUSA Senate Speaker Richie Mullaney (COL ’18).
“The Council of Advisory Boards has consistently said that they want more of a say in the funding process because they’re experts. Fin/App has said that they want more of a say in the funding process because they’re democratically elected and accountable to the students,” Mullaney said. “I believe both are right, and that’s why in the plan we combine CAB and Fin/App into a new body called the assembly to make club funding more transparent and accountable.”
Last year’s budget appropriated $998,202 for advisory boards, including $235,000 for the Student Activities Commission, $185,000 for the Advisory Board on Club Sports and $95,000 for the Media Board.
The Georgetown Program Board, which received $94,000 last year and the Lecture Fund, which received $74,702 last year, are not part of an advisory board and advocate individually for funding.
GUSA President Enushe Khan (MSB ’17) said the structure of the new assembly involves clubs in the funding process.
“It’s been an ongoing topic from even before I was in the senate, of clubs feeling frustrated like they didn’t know what the process was, or how to be engaged in it, who to reach out to, who’s making these decisions,” Khan said.
The new structure reflects the senate’s original purpose of allocating the student activities fee, according to Khan. The establishment of the senate in 2006 shifted from elections for at-large seats to districts based on residence halls.
“Now that we have this new form and structure, the main emphasis — or the real authority — that the senate has right now is Fin/App,” Khan said. “I think we all recognize that the really big distinguisher for the senate is that it allocates around a million dollars per year.”
Khan said having a new assembly structured around advisory boards is the best way to represent all clubs.
“This essentially gives everyone a seat at the table. So the budget summit isn’t the only place that Fin/App and the Advisory Boards connect, but rather it’s a continuous process and there’s engagement throughout,” Khan said.
Council of Advisory Boards Chair Janhvi Bhojwani (SFS ’18) said the new structure will be more inclusive of clubs.
“I believe this new structure is a good way for all of us to work together to improve student life on campus,” Bhojwani wrote in an email to The Hoya. “It allows for advisory boards to have a voice in the process, and overall I think it’s a very inclusive structure that gives everyone representation, which is an important component I feel is lacking currently.”
GUSA Senator Ben Baldwin (SFS ’19), who currently sits on Fin/App, said the new assembly will help make funding more transparent.
“I think it’s going to be a great way to reform the way funding is done at Georgetown,” Baldwin said. “I fundamentally think that it is going to be a better plan in terms of both transparency and engaging all the correct parties in developing an amenable funding plan for the university.”
The new budget-focused assembly will shift more responsibility over policy to the executive branch. GUSA restructured the executive branch last spring, creating 19 policy teams around issue areas with a co-chair in the executive branch and a co-chair in the senate.
Mullaney said the new structure will help GUSA operate more effectively.
“Right now, our student government is modeled after the United States. I think that model is great for America, but not necessarily a student government,” Mullaney said. “I don’t think it makes much sense for a student government to check its own power.”
The current policy teams will be able to grow in size to accommodate senate members who choose to transition to the executive to work on policy, according to Mullaney.
GUSA Vice President Chris Fisk (COL ’17) said the changes are part of a broader effort to make GUSA more inclusive.
“These restructuring efforts are a continuation of the changes we made last year to make GUSA a more open, transparent, and inclusive organization,” Fisk wrote in an email to The Hoya. “While they’re still a work in progress, these changes will undoubtedly make the funding process more transparent and bring into the fold the real experts on where student activities money should go: advisory boards and student groups.”
Hoya Staff Writer Christian Paz contributed reporting.