SAC Chair indicates continued resistance to remaining GUSA advisory board reforms

At the start of the new club funding process, the Student Activities Commission requested $35,000 from the Georgetown University Student Association, the new guardians of our Student Activities Fee, only to be scoffed at: in the draft budget it proposed just before Spring Break, the Georgetown University Student Association Finance and Appropriations Committee suggested that SAC get a total allocation of a mere $12,500.

The FinApp Committee meant this miserly counter-‘offer’ as a rebuke of SAC for having refused to adopt some of GUSA’s six reforms for advisory boards—”in recognition that the Commission is in good standing with some, but not all, of the reform proposals,” in the words of the FinApp committee. But if the committee hoped its penny-pinching would coerce SAC into adopting the remaining reforms, for the moment, they’re going to be disappointed. In an e-mail to SAC club leaders sent today, SAC Chair Ethel Amponsah (NHS ’11) tells clubs to brace themselves for the limitations the meager GUSA allocation will place on SAC allocation, even as it dips into its reserves.

“I would like to note that SAC has complied with 4 out of the 6 recommendations in an effort to compromise with the Committee,” she wrote. “The draft budget reduces SAC’s allocation budget by about 15%. Please consider how this will effect your organizational budget as this reduction will be felt across all SAC groups …. FinApp would like to mandate that SAC use the excess funds for its allocation budget. However, that is not sustainable as within two years the excess funds would be depleted and SAC would still receive insufficient funds from FinApp.”

SAC’s reserves, she said, are currently at $215,000, and the Office of Student Affairs has suggested that it should maintain reserves of at least $150,000.

In response to Amponsah’s claims, Chair of the FinApp Committee Nick Troiano (COL ’11) said that SAC had only made good faith efforts towards completing three of the six reforms GUSA would like it to make. They are still not disclosing how their individual members vote on allocations, he said, they do not yet have a plan to spend down their reserves, and they do not have a method for picking their leadership that is accountable to the student body.

Read more, plus Amponsah’s full message after the jump, and a statement from members of the FinApp Committee after the jump.

“The real issue is that SAC groups should not be affected by our decreased allocation,” he said. “The excessive reserves SAC has kept is a result of their hoarding student activity fee money–it is wrong for them now to turn around and go on a spending spree and, at the same time, decrease the amount they allocate to groups.”

Troiano said that if they spend a combination of money from their reserves and money allocated from GUSA on their clubs, they can sustain themselves for at least four or five more years. Before their reserves hit the recommended level, GUSA should be able to increase the Student Activities Fee allocations to the advisory boards. But that doesn’t address the issue of the reforms.

“Speaking for myself, I will not support more than the draft allocation if they don’t make a good faith effort on the remaining three reforms,” Troiano said.

Amponsah’s e-mail to SAC clubs:

Hello student organization leaders,

I hope you had a relaxing Spring Break. Please review the following important information:

Decreased Allocation Budget

After the Finance and Appropriations Committee’s (FinApp) Budget Summit on 2/28, SAC has learned that the draft budget allocates $12,500 to SAC, less than half of what was requested. For the past two years, SAC has received $35,000 (08-09) and $25,000 (07-08) from the Student Activities Fee for its allocation budget. The marked decrease in funds will undoubtedly limit what SAC is able to fund. I am told that the decrease in funds is a result of SAC’s stance on FinApp’s 6 recommendations for advisory boards. I would like to note that SAC has complied with 4 out of the 6 recommendations in an effort to compromise with the Committee.

The draft budget reduces SAC’s allocation budget by about 15%. Please consider how this will effect your organizational budget as this reduction will be felt across all SAC groups. Additionally, we have just learned that securing a DPS officer next year will now cost nearly double this academic year’s price. With these factors along with rising space costs, new organizations, and a desire for more elaborate programming, the Commission will have to decrease allocations. We are considering a decrease in Standard Operating Budgets and are reviewing all allocations made. We value your input in this process and have created a survey about how your organization uses its Standard Operating Budget. We will also send out a general survey about your overall experience with SAC in the coming weeks.

Lastly, SAC has learned from the Office of Student Affairs that it should maintain its reserve funds at $150,000. Currently, the Commission has $215,000 in its reserve as per the former recommendation from Financial Affairs. FinApp would like to mandate that SAC use the excess funds for its allocation budget. However, that is not sustainable as within two years the excess funds would be depleted and SAC would still receive insufficient funds from FinApp. Instead, the Commission would like to use the funds to address some of your expressed concerns and needs such as space renovations and increased storage. Within our upcoming general survey, there will be an opportunity to express your opinions about how the funds should be used. I also encourage you to speak with your Commissioners, or e-mail me directly at sac@georgetown.edu with suggestions.

As always, thank you for your understanding.

All the best,

Ethel Amponsah

The FinApp Committee’s statement about SAC:

The GUSA Finance & Appropriations (FinApp) Committee draft Student Activities Fee Budget proposes allocating $12,500 to the Student Activities Commission (SAC), which is less than its request for $37,500. SAC’s allocation will be substantially increased once the Commission agrees to adhere to the 6-point funding reform plan.

Currently, SAC adequately complies with only three points of the plan. SAC maintains an appeals process for clubs denied funding, allows clubs reasonable control over funds they raise, and has begun a pilot program aimed at expanding the annual budgets of its organizations.

Unfortunately, SAC remains noncompliant with the three other points of the plan. First, SAC does not hold fully open meetings where the individual votes of commissioners are public. Second, SAC’s commissioners are neither elected nor accountable to the organizations they represent. Instead, SAC’s commissioners follow a secret application process that allows for the continued reappointment of its members. Third, SAC, like other advisory boards, has reserves far greater than recommended by the Vice President’s Office, however SAC does not have a plan to reduce its excess reserves. SAC’s current reserve is $215,000 while it should only be $150,000. That means SAC is holding $65,000 that could be allocated to clubs in need of support.

The GUSA FinApp Committee will allocate more student money to SAC once it agrees to open meetings where commissioner’s votes are made public, agrees to an election or confirmation process for its commissioners, and determines a realistic plan to reduce its reserves. SAC’s funding is contingent on these three simple and reasonable reforms with which every other advisory board is working to comply.

It is false that any decreased Student Activities Fee allocation to SAC for FY10 will limit funds for clubs. SAC is requesting $37,500 for FY10, however it currently holds $65,000 in excessive reserve money. Any decreased allocation to SAC can be recovered by its substantial reserves. There is no reason why any club should receive less funding when SAC holds thousands of excess dollars in reserve. In addition, all SAC clubs have access to the GUSA Fund where they will find support.

Student Activities Fee money is limited and should be spent responsibly by advisory boards that operate in a transparent, accountable, and efficient manner. SAC should be applauded for the effort they’ve shown on their budget pilot program and I’m very hopeful that SAC can show the same warmth for our other desired reforms. The GUSA Finance & Appropriations Committee looks forward to working with SAC this week in resolving this matter so that clubs can have the funding they need for the coming school year.

22 Comments on “SAC Chair indicates continued resistance to remaining GUSA advisory board reforms

  1. Once again, SAC is using scare tactics to try and demonize GUSA. It’s not GUSA that’s causing SAC not to get its full allocation, it’s SAC. Comply with the reforms, and get the money. Even by SAC’s own admission, they are not complying with two of the reforms. Why can all the other advisory boards comply and SAC cannot?

    But why should anyone be surprised? SAC has been like this for years, despite dozens of commissioners passing through its membership. What’s the common denominator? I think it’s time for an adviser change, in addition to all the great work GUSA is doing.

  2. SAC isn’t complying with the most fundamental of reforms. They are completely non-transparent on how they vote and allow zero input (or transparency) on how they elect their membership. A secret, self-elected non-transparent cabal deserves no student activities money. The reforms they aren’t complying with are the most important reforms — indeed, the reason GUSA started the process in the first place.

  3. Love how the Finapp member(s?) regularly post one-sided, anonymous comments beneath anything written about them as if people are mindless drones.

    7:12 PM

    7:16 PM

    come on

  4. I’m not Ethel nor have I ever met her, but it’s not hard to figure out who you are ;)

  5. I’d like to think I’ve remained fairly politic about this whole affair so far, but this is getting absurd.

    SAC clubs should under NO circumstances see a reduction in allocations. Instead, SAC should begin to spend down its $60,000 reserve as it’s been given clearance to do by the Office of Student Affairs. To do otherwise is to hold the students on this campus hostage in a bullheaded resistance to the reforms supported by the clubs it represents. If SAC is worried about sustainability, the body should consider complying with the reforms.

    FinApp has done a above-board and even-handed job in dealing with the advisory boards this year. This should be clear from the way the budgets of all the other advisory boards were presented to and handled by the committee. Indeed, Club Sports and CSJ, two of the advisory boards most opposed to the new Budget Summit structure, gave exemplary budget presentations, complied with all reforms, and both received increases over last year.

    (Additionally, I’m disappointed with the characterization of the exercise of the students’ fiduciary oversight as scoffing and ‘miserly.’ No one who has sat in on one of these budget meetings could possibly characterize this process that way.)

    Thank you,
    Adam Talbot
    GUSA Senate Speaker

  6. As a member of FinApp, I can say that I believe all committee members disclose who they are when they comment. There are just many people who dislike the resistance from SAC and want to make their voices heard.

  7. With the Office of Student Affairs (finally) giving a number value to what is an appropriate level of reserve for SAC, they have simply run out of excuses. As someone who constantly got the runaround by SAC advisor Bill McCoy that the reserve had to be X number of dollars for this or that reason , we now know EXACTLY how much they need and simply put the excess is UNJUSTIFIED. I don’t know how more clear-cut that could be.

    I find it humorous that only after the recommended number from Student Affairs comes out that SAC decides its going to “to address some of your expressed concerns and needs such as space renovations and increased storage,” something that SAC has vehemently ignored in years past. It’s only when their excuses to hoard money are depleted that they pretend to support club efforts.

    Also threatening to withhold that funding once again demonstrates just how unsupportive SAC is to its constituency of clubs. Instead of ensuring continuity in the club’s funding they would rather sacrifice their activities in a desperate power-play all the while blaming the work GUSA has done. I am usually hesitant to comment on these posts but this latest action by SAC is beyond any semblance of reason or logic.

  8. If one of the reforms is to get SAC to spend down their reserves by $60,000, why give them any of the total they requested from the student activities fee this year? Would there be some harm in rapidly spending down their reforms to the appropriate level? Why does there need to be a “plan” presented, instead of just doing it in one year’s budget?

  9. I’m glad SAC is finally taking a stand against the tyranny of GUSA. How dare GUSA think that votes that govern where student’s tuition dollars go should be made public?
    The only analogy I can think of is the Federal Government which is a terrible example since it’s even less transparent than SAC. I cannot imagine knowing what my self-appointed Congressman voted for when allocating my tax dollars to programs. I wouldn’t know what to do. I guess I would be forced to hold them accountable for his vote, but I don’t want to do that because that requires my time and effort. Actually what I’ll probably wind up doing is siding with my Congressman in blaming someone else when he decides to cut my program’s funding. I mean, I’m sure he has my best interest at heart by cutting my funding while setting aside tons of money – it’s for the future! Why spend it now when you can continue to sit on it into the future! Boy, I can’t wait until I get my turn to sit on the money chair.

  10. FinApp must have lost their minds… and they are in no way qualified or informed enough to make these decisions… im graduating but ill be worried for the future of student orgs

  11. Instead of going on and on about how SAC is a rotten commission, I want to point to the Constitution of SAC as reasoning in itself. You see, included in Article II of their constitution are their own six points, or rather, the duties and responsibilities they are entrusted by the student body to commit on a weekly basis.

    These points are:
    A. To support the growth and development of student clubs and activities at Georgetown University consistent with University policy.
    B. To act as a sounding board for complaints from and about student organizations and activities.
    C. To develop policies and procedures involving student activities and funding.
    D. To approve budgets and review financial affairs of student organizations and activities.
    E. To grant and terminate student organizations’ access to benefits.
    F. To oversee the use of space made available to student organizations, whether for meetings or storage.

    Ethel makes the claim that they are following 4 out of the 6 points (which is false) and that SAC is running efficiently. At this time, they are only following 3 of their own points that is contained in their constitution.

    The first being that they are not supporting “the growth and development of student clubs and activities” but rather exchanging in petty maneuvers to do anything but. They possess a reserve account for a reason, and no matter what the circumstance is, they MUST strive for more efficiency when it comes to supporting groups on campus.

    The second is that they are not a sounding board. Granted, I know a few of the SAC Commissioners and I can attest to their commitment to student activities, but leadership speaks for itself, and it is not the role of a Chair of any organization to make up excuses for not doing their job right. They, in doing so, bring down themselves, their organization and most importantly their school.

    It is not only understood that SAC achieve GUSA’s outlined points, but it should understood that in everything SAC does, it should be in the student’s best interests. For now, worry shouldn’t be placed on the 2 (really 3) points SAC has failed to achieve to secure funding from GUSA, but great emphasis should be put back on the students they are appointed (remember, by the out-going Chair) to represent.

  12. I am so tired of SAC. They are a worthless, unrepresentative, secretive organization that does nothing but impede the smooth operations of campus organizations. It’s hard to think of any student group worse than they are. There is no reason that they cannot comply with these reforms except for their own arrogance and self-importance. Also, just gonna put it out there: Bill McCoy should be fired.

  13. I agree with “ugh” about Bill McCoy. He’s awful. I could list several reasons why, but he’d probably figure out which groups I’m from and throw more inane roadblocks in our way and there would be nothing we could do about it since he seems to be the Supreme Chancellor of Georgetown. Sorry King of Georgetown, but he’s got you beat.

  14. i am the president of a sac group on campus, reluctant to say which group i represent for fear of retaliation. why? because sac commissioners vote behind closed doors – they could easily conspire against our group (@ agreed)

    i think one of the biggest issues is something i’ve just demonstrated – sac claims they are open to criticism… but we all fear criticizing them because they control our money. i strongly strongly disagree with ethel’s claim that if there is open voting, it’ll become open season on commissioners who vote against a group. i would hope that if we’re giving them REAL money from our own pockets (and a lot of it!) that they should be held accountable. and they can’t be held accountable by voting behind closed doors

    i don’t think there’s a naysayer commissioner (i.e. someone who just says no to everything), but we won’t know for sure. how do we know that someone just has it out for one particular group? yes, there is a group consensus that should override this, but we would never know.

    likewise, if i found out that commissioner a b and c voted against our groups proposal, yeah. i’d be annoyed at a b and c, but it’s not like i would retaliate. in fact, it might foster more talk – i could ask them why they thought it wasn’t a great idea and maybe we could encourage some real conversation.

    additionally, i loathe bill mccoy. he has a terrible, unfriendly attitude and is extremely condescending to our group. no, we don’t know all the rules. that’s why you’re here – to help us. not to talk down to us when we don’t understand all the complicated rules.

  15. Just to note, I’m not a member of FinApp, so Commenter Number 3, you can rescind your accusation.

  16. 1.) Considering that every year 10-50% of SAC’s “allocation”, as Ethel refers to it, goes unspent, causing the reserves to build up in the first place, why doesn’t SAC just allocate more than 100% of the money they have, knowing from 10 years of experience that most groups will end up under budget? This is a standard practice in many places; if you have $100,000 to spend but typically see about 20% of your allocations to clubs going unspent, just allocate $125,000. This is sort of like how Georgetown admits more students than it actually has available slots for, because they know that their yield is 50% — aka, half the people they admit will go elsewhere. This seems like an obvious solution to both make sure that all clubs have the money they need and plan to avoid the recurrent annual surpluses. They always have their own reserves, FinApp/GUSA, and future fiscal policy as backstops in case the extra money does actually get spent.

    2.) SAC seems to be balking at the most important reforms. I’m no expert on the reforms that GUSA is proposing but I doubt they all carry equal weight, and things like open votes and actually BEING ACCOUNTABLE via election or nomination/confirmation or something like that seem pretty important!! It is mind-blowing to me that SAC is resisting something as fundamental and as broad as the command that they “show some way in which they are accountable to the student body.” Come on! This amounts to believing that SAC really SHOULD be a self-appointed, unrepresentative, closed system rather than derive any of its legitimacy from a mandate from the students. Nobody’s saying that SAC should be elected school-wide, but at least having some form of accountability — nomination/confirmation by GUSA, the clubs themselves, election of the SAC Chair and appointment of the other commissioners, etc — seems obvious.

    3.) SAC says it is “unsustainable” to fund the allocation gap out of their reserves for more than a few years. I think the point of GUSA’s actions (not being a member of it) is to force them to start taking on those 2 years of available reserves funding. I’m sure that GUSA is reasonable enough that if, in two years, all that money is gone, they will restore SAC’s full funding request. The entire point in the meantime is to get SAC to spend down its reserves.

    4.) Everyone, including GUSA, is still missing the big picture on the reserve funds. Previous reporting has said that this money sits there forever, usually ends up increasing at the end of the year, and DOES NOT COLLECT ANY INTEREST. Come on, we’re smart people, there’s gotta be a way to fix this fundamental problem. I remember someone proposing a while ago that all the boards store their money in the student endowment and then have the ability to draw funds down if it turns out they ever really do need to access that money. It’s a crime against the student body that, in the meantime, 800k or however much it is has spent 10 years not only failing to generate capital gains but also depreciating with inflation. I’m disappointed that GUSA hasn’t done more on this. There are definitely some commonsense solutions that can balance the advisory boards’ legitimate needs for liquidity in their reserves with the larger need to make sure that massive amounts of student monies aren’t effectively going to waste.

    5.) I think everyone should be clear on this point — if SAC decides to reduce clubs’ allocations this year despite the fact that they have tons of extra money in reserves above and beyond their stated $150k goal and they have the ability to over-allocate to compensate for the usual end-of-year club underspend, it will be SAC and nobody else who is responsible for decreasing funding for clubs. They cannot blame this on GUSA. They are trying to stick it to GUSA by fucking over the clubs unnecessarily, which is in line with the standard pettiness of SAC in general.

  17. Back when the GUSA-SAC kerfuffle was first getting big, I went to part of a SAC meeting to see what they were like. While I was there, they had a vote on some minor issue with me in the room. I didn’t think anything of it, just figured SAC votes weren’t as secretive as people had made them out to be.

    Later, then-chair Sophia Behnia came up to the Voice office to stress to me that votes were supposed to be secret and they hadn’t intended on doing me any special favors. What.

  18. This thing is generating comments at a rate somewhere between a post about the neighbors complaining and a post about racism. Very impressive.

  19. Sophia Behnia leaving campus is among the best things to happen to Georgetown student life in the past five years. She was a hostile chair who, quite frankly, represented everything that is wrong with SAC’s institutional culture: arrogance, self-importance, and the sort of uptight “let’s see how I can fuck you with weird interpretations of the rules” attitude that only sociopathic pedants have. When you’ve met her and you’ve met Bill McCoy, you start to understand just why SAC’s institutional culture is as bad as it is. Bill McCoy is at the root of this problem. He certainly plays favorites and, if you’re on his bad side (and you won’t even know why you’re there), he will be entirely unhelpful. I don’t mean “unhelpful” in the “lazy bureaucrat who doesn’t care” sense; I mean unhelpful in the “let’s try to actively undermine student life with petty regulations and condescending bullshit” sense. He should be fired immediately. It would remove a horrifying amount of weight off the back of student life here, and organizations might be able to proceed as though they are contributing legitimately useful things to the university instead of having constant bitter negotiations with an antagonistic set of foes.

  20. Pingback: Vox Populi » Comments of the Week: Stay classy, Hoyas!

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