How is GUSA doing on this year’s approval of the budget? I’m glad you asked. Here’s how Matt Wagner (SFS ’11) broke it down to the Senate yesterday.
“We have a budget the Senate voted ‘no’ on, and no new budget from the Funding Board, [the group of seven Senators and six heads of other student groups that creates the budget every year]. We either approve a budget on Wednesday, or we don’t.
What happens if the year ends and the Senate does not approve a budget? I talked to Erika Cohen-Derr, and she said there are two possibilities. A) clubs simply don’t get a budget from us, period, and that money is saved and rolled over into next year. That means a third of the funding for some of these groups is gone. B) administrators, namely Erika and her second-in-command Bill McCoy, give these student groups whatever budget they deem appropriate because the student government they over see failed to do that.
(Emphasis and paragraphing mine.)
You’d think that, seeing as the budget for next year was hashed out roughly two months ago, GUSA would have approved it by now. Instead, they’ve rejected it twice and are pushing hard to get it approved before the last day of classes.
What’s gotten our favorite student bureaucrats into this mess? It’s a “huge conspiracy,” according to Senator Johnny Solis (SFS ’11). Check out the full story after the jump.
Let me do a little review before we get to the good stuff. There’s been a lot of talk in the Senate recently about the massive reserve funds campus clubs have in interest-free accounts. Some Senators say that the clubs should keep those reserve funds in case they need them. (The example Matt Wagner brought up yesterday was when GPB didn’t realize that no one would want to see a massively expensive Fountains of Wayne concert. When GPB’s love for “Stacey’s Mom” wore off, they had to go five figures into their reserve fund to recoop their losses). Other Senators, and GUSA President Calent Angert (MSB ’10), think that money should be spent to directly help the student body.
Here’s where the conspiracy comes in: it seems that Angert thinks the best way to spend that money is to give it to him, for the creation of his Georgetown Fund. The existing budget for next year—the one the Senate has failed to approve for two months—says nothing about feeding the fund, so it would be real nice for Calen if GUSA re-did budget.
How do you get a new budget? That’s the job of the Funding Board, which makes decisions by consensus. But there’s a nice little loophole: if the Funding Board can’t agree on something within ten days, the decision goes to a majority vote. And because GUSA is the majority on that board, after ten days of disagreement, they can do whatever they want if they all vote as a bloc.
What it seems like Calen is hoping for is that GUSA will call another meeting of the Funding Board to discuss a more Angert-friendly budget. Even if they don’t all agree, after ten days, GUSA can band together to pass the new budget and give Calen the money for his fund.
A number of Senators have started to do exactly what Calen wants them to do: vote down the budget and force the Funding Board to come up with a new one. According to Johnny, Tim Swenson (COL ’10) and Sam Hyman (COL ’12) have been calling Senators, asking them to vote against the budget and make the funding board reconvene. Coincidentally enough, Tim and Sam were appointed to Calen’s cabinet before Matt asked them to step down because of conflicts of interest. Tim even sent an email to other members of the Finance and Appropriations Committee, (conveniently forgetting to copy Matt), urging them to start the process that would, in his words, “get the clock ticking.” As he said in the email,
“All we need is at least 7 people from the funding board to be in the room and ‘convene’ it. We can discuss whatever we want but once we’ve convened that meeting the budget starts and the clock ticks down. “
Well, the Funding Board hasn’t convened, and the Senate has no new budget to approve. Meanwhile, the year is winding down and clubs are quickly running out of money. So where do we go from here?
Senators in Calen’s camp may be out of time. In a last-minute attempt to get a new budget on the table, Nick Troiano (COL ’11) tried to amend the rules governing the Funding Board so all decisions would be made by a 2/3 majority vote. The amendment just barely failed 7-9-2, making it impossible for the board to vote on a new budget before the school year ends.
According to Senator Johnny Solis (SFS ’11), it’s not that Calen is evil or power-hungry. He’s just looking to come through on a campaign promise:
I believe Calen’s vision of a Georgetown Fund is a great idea. But I believe he did not think out his plan enough. He put all student organizations at risk, and pushed them to the limit so campus funding boards are running on fumes and they’re starting to get scared… He should have been more prudent and realized the effects this would have on the student body.
Stay tuned for Wednesday’s meeting and the final budget vote.