Last night, the Georgetown University Student Association Finance and Appropriations Committee met once again to finalize the referendum for the proposed uses of the defunct $3.5 million Student Activities Fee Endowment. [Here's a recap of the first part of the meeting.]
The allocations are as follows (the draft referendum is reproduced below):
- Georgetown Energy’s solar panels and revolving green fund: $250,000
- New South Student Center: $2,048,412. This will fund the southern terrace and the first floor renovation with an additional $206,763 of interest earned on the account.
- SIPS fund: $1,250,000 plus the any additional interest after NSSC is fully funded.
Here’s the rationale the comittee provided on each proposal.
The issue was whether to fund it at the original request of $163,398, which the endowment commission recommended, or at $300,000, which Georgetown Energy requested in their latest proposal.
According to Georgetown Energy, they found that the original $163,000 requested wasn’t feasible because, “Facilities is great at finding things they don’t want to pay for.” That amount would be insufficient for all 43 townhouses, and that’s not considering the revolving green fund.
As a whole, the committee, like the endowment commission before them, had no qualms with funding GE. More so, their only issue from Tuesday, GE’s relationship with SIPS, was clarified in an additional attachment, which clarified how the revolving green fund would exist should SIPS either fail the referendum or run out of money.
The committee decided on $250,000 as a half-way point between the two numbers.
New South Student Center
The contension surrounding NSSC was how to treat the three projects within the proposal (the southern terrace, the first floor renovation, and the fireplaces/skylight). The committee agreed to strike the fireplaces/skylight and fully fund the southern terrace at $1,598,000. However, an issue arose when deciding whether the $656,775 renovation of the first floor was justified.
Cannon Warren (COL ’14) proposed that the committee not fall into “the fallacy of the packages” and feel forced to take the numbers as written. He said the university can still renovate the first floor if they don’t have the full $650,000.
“We’re not the only interested party here,” Warren said. ”I think the university is leveraging students for capitol improvements.”
Chair Colton Malkerson (COL ’13) disagreed. “You do have to fund it at the level that the architects have said,” he said. However, later in the meeting, Malkerson conceded Warren’s point as a contingency for an under-performing endowment.
“If no interest is made,” Malkerson said, “the first floor would be scaled back.”
Warren specifically disliked that the renovated first floor would destroy the music practice rooms. His concern resonates with what Nick Troiano (COL ’12), a proponent of the SIPS proposal, raised on Tuesday: there was no public forum for the NSSC changes before they were submitted on Monday.
Ultimately the committee decided to fund the first floor renovation partially with money currently in the endowment and partially with interest accrued between now and construction.
Social Innovation and Public Service fund
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Troiano, a member of the SIPS steering committee, passed out packets with more letters in support of the project as well as updated fund trajectories based on potential funding scenarios. Troiano said that because SIPS is an endowment, reducing their request by $0.25 million would reduce the lifespan of the endowment by six years under baseline projections. He also brought up again that SIPS has already shouldered the responsibility of fundraising half the $3 million fund SIPS envisions.
Although one senator proposed that they give SIPS $1.21 million plus all the interest earned from New South, Malkerson was adamant that SIPS be funded at minimum of the endowment commission-recommended $1.25 million, which would fund SIPS until 2028 under baseline projections.
The rest could be made up with fundraising. “While New South has already exhausted their fundraising capabilities,” Malkerson said, “SIPS hasnt tapped into theirs.”
Still, Malkerson expressed doubts about SIPS long-term sustainability because it depends on of SIPS’s relationship with the university. “I might not be as optimistic as they in terms of how willing the advancement office will be [to let them fund-raise],” he said.
SIPS was allocated $1.25 million plus any interest earned after NSSC is paid in full.
Before these uses for the endowment can be put to a final yes/no vote to the student body, they need to be voted in by the GUSA senate as a whole this weekend.
If the senate approves the referendum, it will be held for 72 hours from January 24-26, and will be nearly identical to the earlier referendum for the SAFE reform, except that each proposal will be a separate issue.
At least 2000 students need to vote in order for the referendum to be valid, so GUSA allocated themselves money to publicize the referendum. Here, “publicize” means a non-biased get-out-the-vote drive; although nothing will stop individual GUSA senators from advocating for specific proposals (for example, there is a “Vote YES on SAFE reform” sign paid for privately that is inside the GUSA office).
Also, if any of the proposals are shot down, the money will remain in the endowment.