Georgetown University Student Association’s Student Activities Fee and Endowment reform makes a noble attempt at resolving the funding problem facing student groups, but goes way too far. No club on campus needs its budget tripled, and GUSA has no actionable plan for how the additional funds will be spent. Contrary to the impression given by GUSA, there is in fact money available on campus when planning an event with widespread appeal across the student body.
There are a number of problems with the arguments presented by GUSA to justify this reform. The Student Activities Commission’s lack of funding is entirely a result of GUSA’s own actions. SAC faced budget cuts because GUSA cut its budget to make way for the GUSA Fund, which was coincidentally unequipped to give out funds until November of this year. It was GUSA that put the red tape around our Student Activities Fee this year, forcing SAC to reform before its commissioners could give out money while GUSA itself remained unwilling to hand out money in the meantime.
GUSA senators are using advisory boards’ requests for funding as justification for their claims of underfunding. Anyone who has ever requested funds knows being over-budget is inevitable, as money granted is almost always less than money requested. Advisory boards knew GUSA was out to cut their funds to make way for the GUSA Fund when drafting their budgets for this year. Accordingly, they over-budgeted so the actual amount they received would still allow their student groups to function.
GUSA continues to tout the regular formation of new clubs as a possibility with an increased Student Activities Fee. Georgetown’s new club formation process is far more difficult than at our peer institutions, and it is that burdensome process that is the true hindrance to most startup clubs – not a lack of funds. GUSA’s framing of the topic for electoral gains is misleading.
Additionally, it is not a lack of fees that prevents most events from being planned. The primary constraints are logistical – there is not enough space on campus to hold the events clubs currently try to hold, never mind holding additional events. GUSA cannot construct more space on campus. Even the untouched $2 million in the endowment would be insufficient to make even a dent in the costs of increasing student space. The Office of Campus Activities Facilities will not stop charging student groups fees to rent spaces on campus just because we pay a higher Student Activities Fee. If anything, they will use the increased availability of funds to justify increasing space rental fees further. Similarly, we do not have venues on campus to hold additional speakers or to play host to a $200,000 artist for our spring concert.
But it comes down to a simpler imperative: SAC and GUSA cannot be student groups’ only source of funding. The Big Hunt starts every year with an empty budget, and through solicitations we are able to raise nearly $6,000 in funds and prizes in order to hold our event. On my own, I raised over $8,000 in a week and a half to bring a popular speaker to campus. If there is an interest in your event, you will find support on campus to help you hold it.
But campus support works both ways, forcing us to ask whether niche clubs with less campus-wide appeal actually need more funding. I can sympathize with students participating in the International Relations Club or club sports who want to travel with their group. But as someone not involved in either, I think a 60-40 split for traveling expenses is entirely reasonable. I am glad other students want to play club sports, but you picked an expensive hobby by choice. Don’t make me or any other student paying the mandatory fee fund it.
SAFE reform is yet another example of GUSA involving itself in reforming an aspect of campus life that its members do not truly understand. Last year’s club funding reform was a case in point: The resulting fiasco led to clubs skating by without funding for the first two months of the semester while GUSA sorted through the red tape they had created.
Rushing into another reform is not a sensible next step, especially if GUSA has not even worked out the wrinkles of last year’s sweeping changes. The sheer volume of money that will be generated by SAFE reform is unnecessary, and GUSA needs to go back to the planning stages and draft a more feasible resolution to the lack of funding for niche groups on campus. Vote no on SAFE reform to force GUSA to consider a more viable option for funding student activities on campus.
Nicole Tortoriello is a junior in the College, Special Events Chair for the Georgetown Program Board and the Funding and Prizes Coordinator for The Big Hunt.
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