Last night, the Georgetown University Student Association Senate passed the Act to Create A Referendum Regarding The Student Activities Fee and Endowment, which creates a referendum for the student body to vote on whether or not to spend the defunct $3.5 million Student Activities Fee Endowment on the Georgetown Energy’s solar panel and revolving green fund project, the New South Student Center plan, and the Social Innovation and Public Service fund, respectively. [The first two parts of the saga can be read here (I) and here (II).]
The senate approval process was held in two-parts: on Saturday, the senate convened to ask questions of representatives of the two proposals, and on Sunday, the senate passed the bill.
Some Georgetown Energy Clarifications
On Saturday, only Georgetown Energy and Taylor Price (MSB ’11, MPS ’12), author of the NSSC proposal, presented, since SIPS had already presented to the full senate.
Georgetown Energy co-founder Anthony Conyers (COL ’12) detailed the proposal’s rationale. GE originally requested $163,000 to cover only the costs of leasing the panels, and the $300,000 GE presented last week reflected the other costs of the project.
Conyers also clarified that only nine townhouses have the appropriate roofs for solar panel installation, but two of the houses may not have enough exposure to the sun. VP for facilities and student housing Karen Frank told GE that facilities doesn’t have the money to replace the roofs on the remaining townhouses.
Conyers also addressed the challenges to authorship the project received on Tuesday. Georgetown Energy and The Fund (the challenging group) reached an agreement wherein The Fund would drop all challenges and endorse the project. Still, Conyers said he has documentation that GE had been working on the revolving green fund before talking to The Fund.
Read about NSSC after the break
New South Student Center’s first presentation
Price walked the senate through the process of drafting the NSSC proposal. According to Price, he met with university architect Gina Bleck, CSP director Erika Cohen-Derr, and VP for Student Affairs Todd Olson and was able to obtain a list of cost projection for enhancements that a group of students had come up with.
“A few of us decided what would be the best way to move forward,” Price said. When asked how accurate the cost estimates are, he assured the room that the architects took weeks drawing up a projects, so the costs are almost exact.
On the cost, Price expressed some qualms that the language of the bill would handcuff the project. Under the bill as written, the first floor renovation would be partially funded through interest earned off the terrace’s allocation. However, Price said that the first floor might need to be constructed before the terrace and thus before the full amount of interest can accrue. Ultimately FinApp did not change the bill.
One contention regarding NSSC was the project’s relationship with university. First Laura Kresse (SFS ’12) asked Price and FinApp chair Colton Malkerson (COL ’13) if GUSA had assurance from the university that this money would only go to the specified projects.
Malkerson responded that, although legally the university owns the endowment, they plan to sign an agreement in good faith to specify the uses of the money.
“The agreement will be explicit that not a dollar will go to anything not specified in the referendum,” Malkerson said. Furthermore, this situation is different from the original Student Activities Fee Endowment agreement (in which the university promised money) in that, this time, it will be on paper. Ten years ago, the agreement was never written down.
Finally, a number of senators asked Price to justify that his proposal is not giving money to a university project.
Price responded that he dislikes the language “university project.”
“This is a Georgetown community project,” Price said. “Not a university project.” The administration is only contributing a fraction of the funding for the space, according to Price. Most of it will be paid for by alumni, parents, donors, and now students. Ideally, Price imagines that the university will treat this money as if it were from a single donor. Also, this money can be leveraged by the university to attract other donors.
The Bill Passes
The Senate passed the bill on Sunday unanimously. Some senators, namely Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) and Cannon Warren (COL ’14) expressed general qualms about the bill, but both saw it as a good compromise. The final bill was identical to the one originally passed through FinApp on Wednesday, except with the dates changed to make the referendum (more) possible.