Funding Board approves GUSA Fund, but advisory boards fight to keep their votes

piggyThese little piggies want to keep their votes

When the Funding Board reconvened yesterday after the board’s contentious meeting two weeks ago, it approved the GUSA Fund once GUSA agreed to amend its request of $30,000 and instead ask for $26,000 from the general Funding Board reserve. GUSA now plans to provide $4,000 from its own operating budget, pending Senate approval.

Advisory board members indicated that GUSA investing some of its own money would be a show of good faith since advisory board members were concerned about investing such a large sum in a new funding structure. Last meeting, all six advisory boards voted down the GUSA Fund. After this meeting’s amendment, the five advisory board members voted yes, with only GPB Chair Matt Brennan (COL ‘10) voting no. Brennan had said he wanted the Funding Board to allocate even less to start up the Fund and then reconsider how much the Fund needed in the spring.

The Funding Board came to its decision after Erika Cohen-Derr, Director of Student Programs, encouraged the group to seek “consensus based opinion” instead of a unanimous decision. GUSA members wanted to move forward in the meeting, but advisory boards reiterated the need for more discussion before the group moved to a vote.

“At every funding board meeting I’ve been to before this, after each proposal, we actually talk about it, talk about changing it, and try to figure out a proposal that’s acceptable to everybody, whereas this year, we’ve voted and waited 10 days,” said Club Sports Chair Nick Calta (COL ‘10).

But when the group moved on to discuss the provision to strip the advisory boards of their votes, GUSA Senator Nick Troiano (COL ‘11) criticized that very consensus-building process for being ineffective and not beneficial. He said advisory boards are not held accountable to students, and convening the Funding Board was not an efficient way to allocate funds.

GPB Adviser Tanesha Stewart said she found it unnerving that some of the reasoning for stripping advisory boards of votes was GUSA’s frustration at the long, deliberative process. The meeting lasted over two and a half hours.

“If you’re arguing with each other, it’s for a reason,” Stewart said.

“If I thought this was a worthwhile process, I would sit here forever,” Troiano countered.

Additionally, advisory boards argued they represented a different constituency than GUSA—club leaders instead of students in general. They argued that if GUSA only answers to what a majority of their constituents want, smaller clubs may not get the funding they need. The advisory board members also debated whether GUSA had too much self-interest of its own.

“We just gave you $26,000,” Calta said. “Who’s holding you accountable?”

Troiano said at other peer institutions, student governments are solely responsible for allocating funding. CSJ Advisor Ray Shiu said that in his experience with other colleges, this was not necessarily a good system to copy because it would give big organizations incentive to stack GUSA with their people. Troiano pointed out that GUSA would still be allocating money to the advisory boards, not individual clubs.

PAAC Advisor Ron Lignelli questioned whether GUSA would even have the power to strip advisory boards of their votes, since PAAC is under the responsibility of Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson.

As for the six measures in GUSA’s comprehensive funding reform resolution, advisory leaders said they either agreed with or already complied with many of the measures, such as holding public meetings, posting public minutes and providing an appeals process.

In a written statement at the beginning of the meeting, GUSA President Calen Angert (MSB ‘11) made some candid remarks about the history between GUSA and the advisory boards.

“The history between GUSA and the advisory boards is, admittedly, not an exemplary one,” Angert said. “GUSA in years past has come across as inattentive or unwilling to work with your organizations. I don’t deny that, but we need to realize is there’s a difference between institution and the members who make it up year to year. … I hope we have proved to you we represent a new GUSA.”

Photo from Flickr user Daniel Y. Go used under a Creative Commons license.

16 Comments on “Funding Board approves GUSA Fund, but advisory boards fight to keep their votes

  1. Club sports got their request for money approved – kind of a big thing.

  2. That comment by Calen is incredibly self-serving and grounded in extremely little fact, much like his original campaign claim that he “worked on SAC reform” as a GUSA Senator in the past.

    The truth is, and I believe most of the advisory board leaders would agree with this, that the “GUSA of years past” has been much more willing than the current one to work collaboratively and cooperatively with the experienced and knowledgeable students who represent the advisory boards. This “new GUSA” that Calen seems so proud to represent does not seem to be very willing at all to extend the olive branch in return for cooperation and reform, as evidenced by the advisory board representatives’ and their staff advisers’ comments in this very post.

    Self-inflating rhetoric with no substance or factual grounding?

    -Matt Wagner
    former GUSA Senate Finance and Appropriations Chair (2008-2009)

    …now bring on the angry ad hominem response, which Calen himself was all too eager to levy at the final Senate meeting of last year in front of the entire body. I spoke in favor of working with these boards to create a new system, and Calen made personal attacks despite his utter and complete lack of knowledge of the history of the financial reform process. Nick Troiano, despite his sometimes-abrasive style of public speaking, at least worked his tail off last year on this issue and is working from a basis of deep knowledge and experience.

    As a result of the work that Nick and I (and former President Pat Dowd) did last year, SAC leaders agreed to membership and leadership and transparency reforms. It was this “new GUSA” that fell short in holding up their end of the bargain, when their responsibility was only to make sure that all of the funding boards had similar transparency and membership processes put into place as the one to which SAC agreed. This “new GUSA,” particularly the executive which had all of last summer to work on this but did not, dropped the ball bigtime on student finance reform despite the good intentions and hard, honest work of the new Senate and its experienced leadership.

    It irks me beyond measure to read Calen’s baseless claim, assuming the quote is accurate, that his administration is in any way more inclined to work with these people than administrations of the past.

    If anyone is unsure about Calen’s record of inattentiveness before assuming his current position, check all of the articles from The Voice and The Hoya from his tenure as a GUSA Senator. I challenge you to find any mention of his name attached to any issue of any substance at all before he decided to run for President.

  3. By the way Matt Wagner is running for GUSA president. Oops full disclosures a real bitch sometimes.

  4. Matt:

    Who are you first of all? Secondly, Calen seems to have done a lot more that GUSA of the past. While you claim you made changes in the leadership of SAC I fail to see any of that implemented this year. Seems like that really didn’t pan out and is the reason that this new GUSA has started to make real changes, because they obviously weren’t made when you were senator. Furthermore where have you been to follow up on these promises you made? I have not seen you do a single thing on this campus since then save for lobbing attacks just now. That’s the GUSA of the past. The grandstanding student politicians who make sweeping promises but never follow up on them. I applaud Calen for recognizing mistakes in the past and truly addressing them. And if you are running for president like the last person alleges, I think it’s safe to say no one wants to return to the GUSA you were once a part of.

  5. As the other Matt involved with GUSA here, I have to respectfully but strenuously disagree with Wagner.

    Wagner: Face it, the compromise reached last year was bullshit. It was an agreement to collaborate with the SAC chair to choose the successor, with some rotating club involvement, if I recall. No independent appeals process, no lump sum funding deal, no public voting, no process for impeaching the chair – in short, nothing except the ‘appearance’ of progress.

    What would the deal have accomplished? Under this ‘new’ system, it’s likely that GUSA would defer to the SAC members in whom to appoint as SAC Chair, because the SAC members knew better who they wanted and who was experienced. And the incoming SAC Chair could make all the promises he or she wanted about working with GUSA, working in the interests of clubs, etc. In the end, you still would’ve got the Sophia Behnias of the world, who would then have been free to do what they wanted. I raised this issue several times during the discussion, as did Nick and others, to no avail.

    But, fine, readers may ask, how did it play out in practice? Well, we have no idea, because SAC turned around and completely broke their deal. Matt gives as reason for this that GUSA hadn’t yet talked to the other advisory boards about making a similar deal. Isn’t that what GUSA’s doing now, that you are now criticizing them for?

    These six points of reform are based off of common sense, reaching out to people who have worked on the issue in the past, looking at how many other peer schools organize their funding processes, looking to the decade or so of campus media, op-eds and editorials criticizing the funding process and calling for change, and most importantly surveying the club leaders themselves to see what they want!

    This ‘new GUSA’, if you want to call it that, has done more in the past four months than I would argue GUSA has done in the last four years to accomplish change, with Calen and Nick at the forefront leading the charge. And I hope that they will stick to their charge and force accountability, transparency and efficiency in these boards.

  6. This Matt Wagner seems like the reason GUSA gets a bad reputation

  7. As to the advisory boards themselves, well… I can’t help but laugh.

    GPB Adviser Tanesha Stewart said she found it unnerving that some of the reasoning for stripping advisory boards of votes was GUSA’s frustration at the long, deliberative process. The meeting lasted over two and a half hours.

    “If you’re arguing with each other, it’s for a reason,” Stewart said.

    First, with all due respect, why are administrators butting in on the allocation of student fees? This is one of the huge problems with the funding process — this is a student issue; they should leave it to the students. We don’t need to be babied around by patronizing administrators, even if well-meaning.

    Second, the comment completely ignores the past history of the funding board. When I designed the funding board process, the unanimity requirement with a ten day wait until majority voting was designed to encourage consensus-building, but ultimately use the majority threat as lever on reluctant advisory boards. That has not been how it has worked in practice. Instead, in the annual budget summit, some advisory boards have delayed the funding board, withheld their vote to completely stall progress, then refuse to help reconvene the board, with the end result that it puts wildly-popular programs over a barrel, with a “vote on this or else” mentality (just look at SAC’s ominously-threatening email it sent out last year).

    Additionally, advisory boards argued they represented a different constituency than GUSA—club leaders instead of students in general.

    HAH! Hahahhahaha! Hahahahahhaahahhahaha! No way. Who said this? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease tell me it was SAC!

    Need I refer you to the survey of club leaders themselves who want these processes in?

    But to the broader point: I wouldn’t be opposed to elected and accountable advisory boards having a vote — because they they would actually represent club leaders.

    They argued that if GUSA only answers to what a majority of their constituents want, smaller clubs may not get the funding they need.

    As Nick Troiano deftly pointed out, GUSA funds advisory boards, not individual clubs themselves. We’re not debating how much money the Medieval Club should get as opposed to the College Dems — we’re debating how much money SAC should get to allocate. It’s SAC that makes decisions that could shaft the smaller clubs (or the larger ones, too).

    The advisory board members also debated whether GUSA had too much self-interest of its own.

    Unlike the unelected advisory boards, GUSA members are elected by their constituents to whom they are responsible. The final budgetary allocation must be passed by 2/3rds of the entire Senate and signed by the President –elected by the whole school–or over his veto. If GUSA is self-interested, it is the ‘self-interest’ of the entire campus.

    PAAC Advisor Ron Lignelli questioned whether GUSA would even have the power to strip advisory boards of their votes, since PAAC is under the responsibility of Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson.

    We’ve been over this before. Yes, GUSA has the power to strip advisory boards of their vote on allocating student fees. This was a GUSA referendum, voted on by the vast majority of students, which created the student activities fee — ditto with the Accountability & Reform Amendment, voted on by 91% of students in favor, that reaffirmed GUSA’s “plenary power” to appropriate the student activities fee.

    We can’t force internal change in PAAC — he’s correct in that regard — nor we can we control any of the other sources of money that PAAC gets, but we do have control over the distribution of the monies that every student pays.

    As for the six measures in GUSA’s comprehensive funding reform resolution, advisory leaders said they either agreed with or already complied with many of the measures, such as holding public meetings, posting public minutes and providing an appeals process.

    Then there’s really no issue here in the first place. If these clubs truly do follow the reform steps, then I am not opposed to giving them a vote. The Finance & Appropriation should, however, check to make sure that they really are implementing them (and not SACking us like last year)—especially on the issues of how the advisory boards’ members are chosen (election or GUSA confirmation), how the lump-sum funding option will work (as few strings attached as possible), how the appeals process works (if you’re just appealing to the same people, that’s not an appeal. Ditto if the appeal is to an unelected administrator. It should have some measure of independence) and where the open votes / public records are located.

  8. Let’s just compare what John said:

    “grandstanding student politicians”

    with

    “Matt Wagner former GUSA Senate Finance and Appropriations Chair (2008-2009).”

    Yeah I wonder what makes more sense. this kid is a joke.

  9. “Additionally, advisory boards argued they represented a different constituency than GUSA—club leaders instead of students in general.

    HAH! Hahahhahaha! Hahahahahhaahahhahaha! No way. Who said this? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease tell me it was SAC!

    Need I refer you to the survey of club leaders themselves who want these processes in? ”

    Matt,

    that would’ve been me (club sports). It was said in reference to removing advisory board votes entirely in the Funding Board process. When I asked him, Nick Troiano specifically said that club leaders had not been surveyed about this proposal, but that getting feedback from club leaders on this issue was a good idea. If a survey that both Nick and I are unaware of regarding this exists, please let one of us know because we’d love to have it.

    On the other hand, I’m happy I could provide you with some entertainment.

  10. I am also happy I provided you all with some entertainment.

    For those who chose to rip apart my criticism of what the current president is taking credit for, I implore you to look into the points I made and evaluate whether they had merit.

    Stoller, I appreciate your comments because I know they’re coming from a knowledgeable source, even if you’ve been off the Hilltop for the better part of two years now. I know you created the existing process and I agree 100% with you on the rest of the changes that sorely need to be made – the independent appeals process, the lump sum funding deal, the public voting, the process for impeaching the chair and even further, the process that I originally wrote to become involved in the selection of the membership of the boards themselves. I’m just saying that brash and unilateral aggression against the existing system is counterproductive, and it puts the stability and continuity of club finance in real danger. Whereas you believe that working with the funding boards instead of against them would only produce their own results with the “appearance of progress,” I wholeheartedly disagree. I think it provides a system that is both open, fair, and stable.

    And no, I don’t believe that what ‘the new GUSA is doing now” is at all equivalent to reaching out to the other boards to work collaboratively towards a smart and appropriate form of transparency and accountability. I think the words you used, “making a similar deal,” are exactly what the current GUSA leadership is trying to force all of the advisory boards to do, and it is dangerous. They are trying to apply one sweeping system to a group of advisory boards with seriously different current systems, constituencies, track records, and financial situations, and that is not at all wise. What we agreed upon last year and what the current administration (which had already taken office at the time) failed to do was to reach out to the other boards, examine their systems individually, and evaluate whether our standards were being met. If they were, as I would say would be the case with Club Sports and the Media Board, doing nothing would have been the best route to choose. If our standards weren’t being met in a particular area, like PAAC posting minutes and having public meetings, those would have to be addressed. If that had been done, I fully and wholly trust that Aakib Khalid and SAC’s new chair Ethel Amponash would have implemented the deal that we made. This old feud between the two organizations is entirely useless, and if people would start to trust the SAC commissioners as wanting what’s best for students too and work with them to achieve that, permanent progress would be way more likely to happen.

    As to those who laud the progress made by the current administration, you may consider looking at who is doing the work that is fueling the progress. It might also be wise to look at whether progress for the sake of progress, as opposed to thought-out and informed progress taken at a responsible pace, is a good thing at all.

    On the first of those points, I argued in my first comment not that work wasn’t being done now – far from that – but rather that the work is being done almost exclusively by a very dedicated and knowledgeable Senate. The executive appears to be doing very little to contribute to these mostly-excellent reform ideas or efforts, and that is all I was criticizing. The work itself and the reforms put forward so far are really excellent (with the small exception of the 10% reserve requirement), but Calen taking credit for it is just disingenuous.

    On the second point, I think it speaks for itself. I am 100% behind the principles of these reforms (again, except the 10% one) and I agree with Nick Troiano, Senate Speaker Adam Talbot, and College Dems VP Fitz Lufkin that they are necessary. My only concern is that the implementation of these ideas is failing to consider the real, substantive differences between the way that each board works, and that being combative in dealing with the issue publicly does no good for anyone.

    By the way, if anyone is looking for more amusement after you finish reading this thread, here’s a fun game. Go search the archives of the Voice and the Hoya for any record at all of Calen advocating for reform of anything at all in the student interest before he ran for President, including in his time as a Senator or in the previous Executive. Talk about a “grandstanding student politician.”

    Lastly, to John, I’m sorry if you found it pretentious or unnecessary for me to include in my post that I was the chair of the FinApp committee of the Senate before the current one. I wasn’t trying to be a douche and I am sorry if I struck you as a douche inadvertently by adding that; I was just trying to establish that I do know this issue and what I am talking about. I spent a lot of time on this issue last year. A lot. And that all I want to do is make sure people who haven’t spent the time or done the work on it don’t take credit as though they have. And speaking of “taking credit,” I find it funny that the person who wanted to try and discredit the post that I made above chose to do so under a pseudonym. Full disclosure is a real bitch sometimes.

  11. So you don’t deny you’re running for GUSA president? Because that would make this all sound like you’re trying to discredit a potential opponent.

  12. As someone always on the sidelines of GUSA Politics (due to my being in and out of Georgetown for the campaign trail and a semester abroad), but nonetheless one who is as active as possible and very interested in what’s happening, I must say that I am cheering for Calen, Jason, Nick T, and the rest of this so-called “New GUSA” 100%. I’ll be upfront in telling folks that I helped Calen and Jason in the campaign season. But that also provides me with the knowledge that these guys have wanted to do this for quite some time. Therefore, I’ll write to another person who I like and respect a lot (Matt Wagner, the guy who has often done while others talked), that I think it’s a bit unfair to paint it as though Calen is stepping in after the GUSA Senate did all this work and claiming total credit. He was among those who pushed for this in the early stages. He has been extremely active in this entire process (from what I can tell) and he’s doing everything he’s doing with the students in mind. I frankly don’t even see anything blatantly arrogant in this article from Calen. It’s all true from what I can tell. I have both friendly and working relationships with folks on both side of this tension, and I gotta say that I am going with Calen and Crew with the funding.

    I think the situation here is very similar to what Michelle Rhee is doing. And my feelings towards the new GUSA are analogous to my feelings towards Rhee’s treatment of D.C. public schools. While I may not be with Calen, Jason, and Nick T (among others working hard on this) 100% on what they’re doing or the way they go about some things, I am happy that SOMEONE is doing SOMETHING. Frankly, I am past the point of believing that all of these talks of “consensus-building” and “transparency” mean anything different to the general student body. It’s about time that someone proverbially flipped off the status quo and its protectors and tried something new. You’ve gotta give these guys credit for going all out on their promises and making them happen. Something to remember: they won (albeit the election process was messy) on these promises. These promises, including the GUSA Fund, were chosen by a majority of those who voted in the runoff as the ones that said majority wanted to see kept. So while they may be like bulls in a china shop sometimes, the members of the new GUSA–and especially those leading this charge-are moving in a direction. You have to give them credit for trying to shake things up. I’d rather have a bull in a china shop then another year of a mouse trying to churn a bucket of cream into butter.

    Respectfully,
    Richie Frohlichstein

  13. “By the way, if anyone is looking for more amusement after you finish reading this thread, here’s a fun game. Go search the archives of the Voice and the Hoya for any record at all of Calen advocating for reform of anything at all in the student interest before he ran for President, including in his time as a Senator or in the previous Executive. Talk about a ‘grandstanding student politician.'”

    Isn’t that the reason he said it was a “new GUSA”? Argument doesn’t really make sense bud. Because he worked on the movement when president and not previously invalidates his right to claim a new GUSA?

    And I didn’t allege you were a douche. I believe that was someone else. I only privately judged that about you.

  14. @Wagner:

    Thanks for the response, but I’ll again re-iterate:

    What in the proposed reforms (aside from the 10% requirement, which I, too, disagree with) is so harmful to force on these advisory boards? I understand they operate differently, but these forms are incredibly basic. To reiterate, excepting the reserve issue, they are:

    1. Board members must be either elected by the clubs they represent, or confirmed in some manner by GUSA

    2. Board members must make all votes public, and keep detailed records of minutes and other documents easily-accessible

    3. Board members must provide an independent appeals process that clubs can appeal to if they’ve been denied funding

    4. Allow clubs to apply for semesterly or yearly lump-sum funding, with reasonably discretion in how to use the funds.

    5. Allow clubs to exercise control over the funds they independently fundraise

    Some boards state they already do these things; great. The FinAp committee is going to be meeting with the boards to ensure they do. But nothing in this is radical. Everything in this has been called for by club leaders themselves. So I don’t see how any of these reforms would have be sidelined because of “real, substantive differences between the way that each board works.”

    Again, if boards are already doing this, great. GUSA just wants to make sure all boards are doing all these steps. And, to add teeth, they are saying that boards that do not follow these common-sense steps will not be able to take money from the student activities fee — because that money comes directly from students, and should only go to boards that are accountable and transparent to them.

    No one has yet pointed out a problem why boards wouldn’t want to adapt these reforms (again, the 10% reserve excepted, and I think that GUSA realizes they were a bit quick on that one), so I don’t even see the money-withholding problem to be an issue. Unless, of course, a board doesn’t want to be accountable or transparent — and then, in my mind (and many, many students and club leaders), they don’t deserve the money.

  15. After reading Richie and Matt Stollers’s latest comments, I do realize that I went too far in what I was saying. And without going on for pages, your points have caused me to realize that the points that were most important to me were drowned out in my comments by the things that I reacted to most loudly.

    You guys are definitely right that these reforms are necessary, and I have believed that from the beginning. I don’t disagree in the slightest with Stoller’s question (“What in the proposed reforms (aside from the 10% requirement…) is so harmful to force on these advisory boards? I understand they operate differently, but these forms are incredibly basic.”), I realize now the real merit in forcing the advisory boards to adopt these fundamental principles. I believe it is the role of GUSA to ensure that they are upholding them, too. My opposition was really to the pretty-aggressive manner in which the reforms are being implemented, and I should’ve been more clear about that. I also wanted to make sure the people doing most of the work were getting adequate recognition for it.

    The only thing it really mattered to me to oppose was the use of this “nuclear option” as some have called it, AKA the idea of striping the advisory boards of their votes right away if they don’t comply with what the GUSA negotiators are asking. I think that option is a viable last resort if the boards are really resistant to changing in the interest of the students (the five reforms that Stoller outlined above), but it seems apparent to me that this threat was levied before any cooperation was attempted with all of these boards.

    Bottom line, I recognize that I was arguing against the wrong aspect of all of this. I think Richie’s analogy to the Michelle Rhee situation was pretty dead-on and that really cast the whole thing in a new light, I just hope that our changes are as calculated and carefully thought-out as the ones she is imposing, even if they do end up being as controversial or ideologically pure. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, and I think I came off as though I thought it was earlier. I am sorry. I also didn’t give enough credit to the fact that these guys are doing basically everything they promised to do when they got elected last year, and that’s seldom been done in recent GUSA history as successfully as they’ve been doing it. That deserves credit, as Richie pointed out, and I should’ve given it.

    As to John, I don’t blame you or the first commenter in the slightest for the personal douche judgment (or the public one, as it were). Most everyone involved with GUSA has been rightly identified as some form of a douche at some point in their college career, and after re-reading my comment, I had it coming this time. I hope it’s one of not too many in recent years.

    Richie, it’s good to hear from you again! Does this mean you’re re-joining the ranks of vox addicts?

  16. Pingback: Vox Populi » SAC Chair e-mails club leaders promising to fight proposed GUSA reforms

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