Last night, the Georgetown University Student Association Finance and Appropriations Committee met to review the final drafts of the proposed uses of the defunct $3.5 million Student Activities Fee Endowment. Starting last night but continuing tonight, Finapp will decide how much of the $3.5 million to allocate to each of the three proposals (the Social Innovation and Public Service fund, the New South Student Center, and the Georgetown Energy solar panel project) and will draft the referendum that will be put to the student body in late January.
This discussion is the almost-culmination of last year’s SAFE reform that declared the endowment defunct and the resulting endowment commission that recommended the uses for the money. The commission’s primary recomendations were for $170,000 to Georgetown Energy and $3.2 million to Healy Pub, but with the premature demise of Healy Pub, a chunk of money is left for the secondary recommendations, SIPS and NSSC. Let’s break down the proposals (actual proposals are at the end):
Georgetown Energy solar panels and revolving green fund
Originally, Georgetown Energy pitched installing solar panels on 43 university owned townhouses through a private developer. This project, besides promoting sustainable energy, would channel the profits made from selling the energy back to Pepco into the GUSA Fund. They originally requested approximately $163,000 with the promise that in 20 years, the solar panels would be turning over true profits.
However, Georgetown Energy ran into some trouble. Anticipating rises in prices stemming from things like the university not having a map of the electricity meters on townhouses, the group is now requesting $300,000. As a bigger problem, the university recently told the group that most of the townhouse roofs can’t support solar panels without renovation, which the university doesn’t have the resources for.
In lieu of placing all the solar panels on the townhouses at once, Georgetown Energy proposed installing solar panels on the seven ready-to-go townhouses and then the creation of a “revolving green fund” for the leftover money. This fund would be a separate pot of money under the purview of SIPS [we'll get to the details later], and it would fund either the latest technology of solar panels or student driven eco-friendly projects [similar to SIPS, but again, more on that later].
And one more catch: a group of students, namely Evan Abrams (SFS ’12) and Tyler Eldridge (COL ’13), claim that they came up with the revolving green fund plan and that Georgetown Energy took the idea, Social Network style. The representatives from Georgetown Energy deny any such thievery, and Finapp chair Colton Malkerson (COL ’13) said the issue has little bearing on the comittee’s job of drafting a referendum.
Overall, the committee members unanymously approved of the solar panel project in its current iteration, but some members expressed some uncertainty about their partnership with SIPS.
The other two projects are after the jump
New South Student Center
Any discussion of NSSC needs to start out with a clarification. The planning and construction of a student center in New South is independent of the SAFEndowment. The university will build a student center that most likely will look like this using the money from this fall’s capital campaign.
The students proposing the NSSC project to the endowment want to amend the existing designs. The proposal’s first concrete iteration, which was submitted on Monday, calls for the creation of a southern terrace, the redesign of the first floor, and the addition of fireplaces and a skylight to the living room area if there is enough money. To accomplish this, the project’s cost were raised from the $1.75 million originally recommended by the endowment commission to $2.5 million.
NSSC was clearly the favorite of the committee, which channeled the call for increased student space as well as the desire to bring something tangible from the endowment.
Social Innovation and Public Service
The last proposal, SIPS, calls for the creation of an endowed funding board to promote social innovation and public service at Georgetown. SIPS is requesting $1.5 million to start the endowment but plans on raising another $1.5 million to make it sustainable.
The SIPS fund would be governed by a nine-member board of alumni, faculty and students (approved by GUSA) who would dole out at least $100,000 a year either to students, groups, and young alumni through direct grants or through partner organizations. The day-to-day administration of the fund would be run by a five-member advisory council.
In the long run, the money from SIPS will be invested by the CIO and the Student Investment Fund. However, the SIPS might not last more than 20-30 years without the Office of Advancement’s support in reaching their $3 million goal.
One tricky part is the relationship between Georgetown Energy’s proposed revolving green fund and the SIPS fund. The revolving green fund would be invested with the rest of SIPS, but kept in a separate pot for separate purposes. Under the partnership, one member of the SIPS funding board would have to be knowledgable about green initiatives to allocate money from the fund effectively.
The committee was divided on SIPS. Although no one was outright opposed to the idea, most committee members were inclined to allocate the lion’s share of the endowment to NSSC. On the other hand Cannon Warren (COL ’14) and Malkerson wanted to give SIPS the amount of money (or near the number) they were asking so the fund will still be effective if the Office of Advancement doesn’t let them fundraise.
The dollar amounts to be put on the referendum will be decided tonight, so check back tomorrow for more details.