Despite GUSA President Nate Tisa’s (SFS ’14) veto of the Green Revolving Loan Fund, the Social Innovation and Public Service Fund will open GRLF applications this week.
“We’re not going to fund anyone,” SIPS Fund Managing Director Ethan Chess (COL ’14) said. “Opening up the application doesn’t cost anything. These projects take time to work on, and we want to make sure we are giving students as much opportunity as they can to put their proposals together. … It doesn’t make sense for us to have the process of the fund sit on the sideline for no reason.”
“[The senate bill] doesn’t actually do anything, essentially, because it’s already written in our bylaws that we can give out grants,” SIPS Executive Director Kate Anthony (SFS ’14) added.
On Oct. 20, the GUSA senate voted unanimously to confirm the SIPS Fund’s authority to start issuing grants and loans through the GRLF. Tisa vetoed the bill that Monday out of concern that the senate failed its “due diligence” to craft a stronger, clearer bill.
With two-thirds of the vote, the senate could have voted to override Tisa’s veto. Instead, GUSA Finance and Appropriation Chair Seamus Guerin (COL ’16) said that a new bill that will be introduced Sunday on the senate floor will confirm the SIPS Fund’s authority to dispense grants through the GRLF. The only difference from the vetoed bill will be an added reference to documents from Student Activities Fee Endowment reform, which established SIPS, to improve clarity.
“Honestly, I don’t see the essence of the new bill being much different from the previous one,” Guerin said.
Tisa maintained that SIPS required GUSA approval, despite the implications of its decision to open applications.
“SIPS came to the senate because the university wanted clarification on the grants and loans question. If they did not feel clarification was needed they would not have come to the senate,” Tisa said.
Chess, however, contended that seeking approval and clarification from GUSA was not the SIPS Fund’s original intention.
“We were doing it out of an abundance of advice from the Office of Student Affairs as a triple check on it, and also as just a way to be transparent and share information with the student body, which we’re very committed to doing,” he said.
Meanwhile, the week since Tisa’s veto has largely been portrayed as a power struggle between the student government and the SIPS Fund board.
Former GUSA President and SIPS Fund Co-Founder Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) came to the defense of the fund in the aftermath of the veto. Gustafson endorsed Tisa’s primary opponent in February’s election.
“I think GUSA is just being a little too power mongering. If things are talked about ahead of time and SIPS did talk to the senate committee beforehand, there shouldn’t be any misunderstandings or need for the executive office to veto it,” Gustafson said. “This past week has been GUSA wasting its time in a power battle that means nothing to anyone but themselves.”
Tisa maintained his veto did not overstretch GUSA power but required the student government to fulfill its duty.
Anthony objected to concerns that, in seeking approval to give grants, SIPS would exhaust its resources.
“It was never our intention of going in trying to pass this through the senate and then giving away $200,000 of the GRLF in grants within the first year,” she said.
Although the SIPS Fund is opening applications without the formal approval of the GUSA senate and maintains that it is independent of the student association, it has decided to make an annual presentation to the senate on the status of the GRLF. SIPS has yet to settle on the maximum number of grants it would allocate each year to ensure the longevity of the fund.
“SIPS has been independent of GUSA since the referendum. But that doesn’t release GUSA from our responsibility to represent students, who voted for a specific proposal,” Tisa said. “When SIPS looked to adjust its mission and came asking us whether or not we thought their original mission included grants, we had an obligation to go back to the original documents, look at what students voted for and make sure students are getting what they voted for before we give our confirmation to the administrators who asked for it.”