A Proposal to Reform the Student Activities Funding Process

The student activities fee is a pot of money that belongs to students.  STUDENTS.  Not GUSA.  Not SAC.  Not CSE.  Georgetown collects the money from students, on behalf of students.  Therefore, the money should go to those activities that students want it to go to, which is not necessarily where a few folks in GUSA or SAC think it belongs. 

Obvious, right?

GUSA will surely lay claim to the money and say it’s theirs because of an agreement it currently has with the University, but that arrangement is subject to revision at any time, especially now that GUSA has repeatedly renegaded on its responsibility to not fund clubs that violate University policy and which are actively hostile to Georgetown’s mission.  The University doesn’t have to give GUSA the funding anymore and can very easily stop doing so since the administration controls the bank account and is the only entity able to collect it.  GUSA could try going to court, but they would lose.  And they could try rallying students, but considering GUSA is so looked down upon by the studentry that a satirical ticket was elected last year, we don’t think the effort would be successful.

We put before you now a better way for funding student activities, one which leverages technology to allow students to directly choose where they want their money to go, and which is based upon how well student clubs provide value to the studentry. 

To show you what we mean, let’s take a look at this fiscal year’s student budget. 

You’ll note SAC gets 23.77%.  Both the Center for Social Justice (CSJ) and Advisory Board for Club Sports (ABCS) receive around 20% each.  The Georgetown Programing Board (GPB) takes 10.5%, the Performing Arts Advisory Council (PAAC) gets 7.43%, the Lecture Fund (LF) 7.08%, and the Media Board (MB) picks up 5.45%.  GUSA retains 2.4%, or $24,300.  The rest of the line items range from .06 to 1.83%.  

Our proposal is to take a set amount each year, say 50%, and have it automatically go to oversight boards (ABCS, PAAC, GPB, LF, & MB) for organizations or events that benefit all students.  GUSA can decide how the money is allocated among these groups, and if they want can even include SAC, though whatever they do, they can’t allocate more than 50%. 

We then propose returning the rest to students so they can choose which other student clubs and events they want their money to fund. 

It’ll be easy to do and eliminate today’s onerous, complex, time-consuming, and energy-draining funding process.

All that’s needed is one database of students and another of eligible clubs.  Then put them together with software that allows students to allocate the remaining 50% of the student activities fee to clubs of their choosing.  Students go online, log-in, allocate their 50%, and then log-out.  Simple.  If a student doesn’t know where he or she wants their money to go, they can have it sent to the GUSA General Fund which takes requests for funding throughout the year for both recognized and unrecognized student groups.  Students may also choose to send their allotment to one of the oversight boards, like ABCS or PAAC.

With this system, there is no longer a need for lobbying SAC or GUSA, which means not having to grovel before some petty bureaucrat who can easily shoot down a club’s funding if they don’t like the proposed budget or have a personal problem with either the club’s leadership, its mission, or activities. 

All clubs will need to do is provide value to students and get enough of them to send some if not all of their 50% the club’s way.  Some clubs will benefit immensely since they provide a lot of value to the studentry by putting on programs Hoyas want and which enhance their Georgetown experience.  Others, not so much, but that’s their own fault.  Even so, they will have the opportunity each year to lobby the studentry for funding in addition to applying to the GUSA General Fund.    

Now there’s still a role for SAC, but it’s as auditors who make sure student funding is being properly spent.  For example, early in the Spring semester students can make their allocations for where their 50% of the student fee should go.   Once complete, the numbers of how well each club did will be released and clubs will then have thirty days to put together a budget for how they intend to use that money in the coming fiscal year. 

The budget gets looked over by SAC commissioners to ensure it complies with University policy, but is not judged on whether or not SAC thinks an event is appropriate (or needed) or whether SAC thinks too much or too little is being spent on a particular line item.  Clubs decide such matters since it’s their money, and they budget based upon what they raise through membership dues, donations, fundraisers, and how much students choose to allocate to them.  SAC can make sure receipts are turned in and money is being properly accounted.  They can continue to provide trainings to help students balance their books and comply with sound accounting practices. 

But that’s it.   

Let’s face it: students are loyal above all to their networks and the clubs to which they belong.  Just ask anyone in Mask & Bauble, the Philodemic, GUGS, or any of the other student organizations on-campus.  It’s not GUSA, nor SAC, nor some administrator from the Center for Student Engagement, nor ABSC or PAAC.   The real work gets done in clubs, the fun on-campus is the result of clubs (and student orgs like GPB and the Lecture Fund), and outside the classroom and friendships, it’s the clubs that add the most value your average student’s experience at Georgetown and retain their allegiance. 

It’s time to empower them.