Vox‘s guide to GUSA’s club funding overhaul

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GUSA’s quest to completely restructure the funding of student activities at Georgetown can get a little confusing, so Vox has whipped up a guide to the motivations for and alleged effects of GUSA’s activities.

Above are the responses to the survey GUSA Senators have cited as part of their evidence for the need for club funding reform. Below, representatives of three of the six boards brief us on the ways they feel GUSA’s efforts could affect their boards and provide

Simplistically, GUSA’s efforts to revamp club funding are twofold: there’s the legislation to create the GUSA Fund sing $30,000 of the $51,412 that the six different funding boards have in their reserves Funding Board, made up  of representatives of the six different funding boards, has in its reserves, which all six funding boards have balked at, and then there’s legislation to withhold the student activity fees we pay that fund the six boards if the boards did not achieve six reforms.

The graphs above show the results of the survey which GUSA Senators cited at a recent meeting when they talked about why the funding boards need an overhaul. By and large, they say, funding processes have become too bureaucratic. The survey went to over 100 clubs and 41 clubs have responded so far (no one from the Performing Arts Advisory Council or the Georgetown Programming Board has responded yet), according to Greg Laverriere (COL ’12—Henle 49-96).

Club members gave the Student Activities Commission the lowest score for its funding process and advice and the highest score for the difficulty of obtaining funding, but the Center for Social Justice was not far behind in two cases.

After the jump, see what members of three funding boards had to say about the effects of GUSA’s legislation!

Here’s how the members of three funding boards have to say about the proposed changes (GPB and the Performing Arts Advisory Council did not respond):

Club Sports (responses by Nick Calta (COL ’10))

The Advisory Board for Club Sports allocates funding to club sports, which we define as teams whose primary objective is to compete in intercollegiate club competition. We allocate funding in two basic ways: a yearly budget and nationals funding. Budgets include significant fund raising goals that each team must meet (generally only about 30% of expenses are covered because we just don’t have the money to do any more).

Trips to national championship tournaments are not included in this budget because most teams have to qualify in order to go to nationals. (It probably sounds like sour grapes coming from me, but I would really like to know the GUSA rationale behind voting against our request for $7000 to help send some teams to nationals.)

While I’m sure we can do better and there is definitely improvements we can make as an advisory board, I think most club sports have an overall positive experience with us.

I’m not entirely sure how the GUSA legislation would impact our board, but I can’t imagine it having a substantial positive impact. Advisory boards have a better idea of what they need to do to be financially responsible than GUSA does. I worry … that many of the GUSA proposals are made specifically with SAC in mind and that nobody really thinks of how they would affect the other advisory boards—at the Funding Board meeting earlier it was pretty clear that a few of the proposals made had absolutely no research behind them.

SAC (responses by Harrison Holcomb (NHS ’11))

SAC is a catch-all for groups that don’t fit under other advisory boards. At present we have 86 total groups.

SAC allocates the majority of its money on a by-event basis, however, we do issue each group a $190 standard operating budget to every group. We also hold a budget allocation meeting each spring where groups can propose events for the upcoming year, however, typically only space costs are allocated at that meeting since food prices, [space] rental prices, etc. are subject to change from year to year.

In general, most our groups seem satisfied. There are always challenges, and certainly some groups like us less than others, however, I think that the majority of SAC groups are reasonably cotent with our processes. We are always working to improve communication with groups and streamline the process. Toward this end, we hope to hold more open house events in the spring, in conjunction with presenting our annual report. We are also actively exploring options to streamline the process for approving lecture events with the lecture fund.

The current GUSA resolution could have considerable negative effects on SACs ability to provide operational support to groups. However, SAC and GUSA will continue to discuss the resolution, to achieve a solution that will ensure SAC is able to continue to fund at its current levels, and improve the efficiency of the funding system.

The Center for Social Justice (responses by Donna Harati (SFS ’10))

We allocate funding to social-justice related groups on campus. Right now, 44 groups are work through CSJ ABSO. CSJ ABSO allocates funding and approves activities both annually and by event. Our advisors work with our student group leaders to create an annual budget that encompasses all of a group’s intended activities for the coming fiscal year. If a group later devises an activity that was not included in their original budget, the board works with them in order to support (with funding, if appropriate) and approve the activity.

Our advisors are expected to always be available to meet with their student groups and to provide any necessary guidance or assistance. Our advisors act as advocates for their groups and strive to ensure that our groups are operating at their fullest potential. I was able to advise STAND for two years, and we worked very closely together to ensure that their fundraisers would produce a substantial profit. I always enjoyed meeting with STAND’s leadership and discussing their ideas, and I think that is very typical of advisor/student group relationships at ABSO.

We have not had the opportunity to discuss the legislation directly with GUSA, and we hope that we will now have a chance to foster dialogue among all members of the Funding Board. I hope that GUSA will be able to learn more about how each of the advisory boards operates. Each board works differently and there is not one, single approach to all of the advisory boards.

Media Board (responses provided by Alex Pon (COL ’12))

We fund media-related clubs, such as student-run publications and media services, such as GUTV and WGTB.

Groups request funding at the end of each academic year for the following year by presenting a budget that is approved by the Media Board.

Media Board rarely denies funding, and if so, usually only does so in a request for more information. Our groups generally have a positive experience with Media Board.

Editor’s note: Alex Pon is a member of the Voice but is not involved with the development of editorial content. His response is meant to provide information about the Media Board while Vox seeks input from other Media Board members about  how they feel the changes would affect it.

Survey results and graphs courtesy GUSA Speaker Adam Talbot (COL ’12—LXR)

16 Comments on “Vox‘s guide to GUSA’s club funding overhaul

  1. Simplistically, GUSA’s efforts to revamp club funding are twofold: there’s the legislation to create the GUSA Fund using $30,000 of the $51,412 that the six different funding boards have in their reserves, which all six funding boards have balked at . . .

    Correction: The $51k is in a general reserve fund, available to all. Each advisory board has further specific reserves, adding up to around $700,000 (some funds have spent down), which are currently in the hands of the specific advisory boards.

    GUSA, by the way, has $0 in reserve funds. Everything we don’t use we roll back.

  2. Additionally, I would love for the advisory boards to go beyond glittering generalities and actually address how the substance of the six reform proposals will hurt their board. I’ll help them out.

    1. Having my advisory board members be directly elected by the clubs they represent, and/or require confirmation by a vote of the Senate, will hurt my board because . . .

    2. Making my board members disclose how they vote and publish timely records of all meetings and other records will hurt my board because . . .

    3. Allowing clubs under our jurisdiction to appeal decisions we render will hurt my advisory board because . . .

    4. Allowing clubs under our jurisdiction to request and receive lump-sum annual funding they have reasonable discretion over to use will hurt my advisory board because . . .

    5. Allowing clubs under our jurisdiction to keep funds they independently fundraise will hurt my advisory board because . . .

    6. Forcing my advisory board to reduce its reserves to a level that roughly equals the amount we usually take out of our reserves per year, and keeping the remainder in a general reserve account that all advisory boards can use in case of liability, insurance, capital expenditures or other purposes, will hurt my board because . . .

  3. That having been said, I don’t mean to be hostile to all the funding boards. Some of the advisory boards have had some of these reforms in place for some time.

    Club sports, to my knowledge, by its nature does lump-sum funding. The Lecture Fund, by special agreement, is allowed lump-sum funding, to its great benefit. Boards that claim to rarely reject funds shouldn’t be worried about an appeals board.

    I just haven’t heard a coherent response from an advisory board on why they hate a specific named reform (the reserve issue excepted, though I think when explained more fully, as above, most agree). Whatever their reasons, they should state them, so students can make up their own minds.

  4. @Matt: I’m on the Media Board.

    1) Don’t have a problem with this. I do have a problem with GUSA just appointing whomever they want to– I want to see something on paper that says they won’t. For the record, my board’s constitution (or whatever you want to call it) says that we are ALREADY supposed to be confirmed by GUSA. No one set that up. GUSAs fault? I don’t know.

    2) My board already has public minutes. I admit, there are some lapses in timeliness, but it’s not like we have a problem disclosing this info. We do not (as far as I know) currently disclose how we vote (I don’t think we actually record this as of now), but I think that could be done easily.

    3) Already do this.

    4) Already do this.

    5) … this is the first I’ve heard of this as part of the reform? I think this will hurt the advisory board because, realistically, this is where most of the reserves come from (rather than from money “saved”/not used during the course of the year). I don’t see why this would make sense. The clubs get their initial funding from the advisory boards– shouldn’t everything they make go towards “paying back” their initial allowance? Of course, any money they raise(d) will obviously go a long way in any future requests they may make from either the regular advisory board budget or the reserves.

    6) This is reasonable, but the proposed reform stated a hard 10%. I still don’t see why each board can’t be responsible for each of the things you mention above. Again, each board is different– why shouldn’t there be different caps on each advisory board? Media Board has huge swings up and down. SAC probably doesn’t, considering they don’t actually allot each club a huge chunk of money. Club Sports has fluctuations in teams that go to nationals. Just some examples. I would like GUSA to do in depth investigations of each board’s budgets.

    Let’s say we go with something close to 10%, or some other arbitrary number that forces each board to spend about half their reserves (just for the sake of the argument). Where is all of that money saved (presumably for next year) going? What about this endowment fund stuff? Where is all of this money going once these reforms are instituted?

  5. Hi Alex,

    Looks like the Media Board has already adopted a lot of these. Perfect.

    Let me address the two points:

    1. As to fundraising, two issues:

    A. Donations. If a club receives alumni or other donations, it should be able to spend those in any way they see fit (provided it doesn’t violate A2B). I don’t see how a funding board should have any right to take this.

    B. Seed Funding: If, to use an example, GUGS gets $1,000 from SAC to ‘seed’ the initial allocations for its grilling, and GUGS intends to make money from selling GUGS burgers and is allowed to, they should be able to keep their profits, less the $1,000 in seed money. In that way, it operates like a loan. Basically, in applying for money, if the event earns money, they should repay that money, but get to keep the rest.

    C. Advertising (as it specifically relates to the media board): This is an issue that should be dealt with by the specific boards. It’s not really fundraising.

    2. As to the reserves–I think you’ve misunderstood my comments. Re-read them — I’m not saying the funding board should propose an across-the-board cookie-cutter reserve level. Each advisory board should get reserves commensurate to how much they dip in to, on average. For extraordinary expenses that rarely occur, as well as funds to cover expected liabilities, advisory boards can turn to the general reserve fund.

    So, if SAC, for example, dips into its reserves on average of about $20,000 a year to loan to clubs that it expects to receive back, let them keep a number around there. If the Media Board dips into the reserves by about $70,000, let them keep that, etc.

  6. @Alex: And one more point–

    As to appointment/election: I think each advisory board, its clubs, and GUSA should come together to figure out a method of advisory board accountability that is suitable to the interests of the responsible parties. Sometimes it may be direct election by the clubs; other times it may be requiring whoever is nominated by the board get confirmed (not appointed) by the Senate; it could be a partial club-election, partial appointment, partial board-elected confirmation process, etc.

    But having completely unelected, self-perpetuating board members (not necessarily saying you follow this method specifically, but SAC absolutely does) who have sole responsibility for hundreds of thousands in funds is not okay under any scenario.

  7. Matt, while you may not be advocating an across-the-board reserve level, as I understood the GUSA resolution, there was a firm 10% target set for boards. I’m all for making boards more willing to allocate the money they’re given, but 10% seems cutting it pretty close to me, and certainly not something that should be mandated on the GUSA-level

  8. “In general, most our groups seem satisfied.” This quote now seems laughable.

  9. A) What about PAAC?

    B) All the advisory boards should be assessed separately. We all cater to different needs and function it different ways.

  10. @Oh, Hey:

    I know of no reason why any board that takes money that students themselves pay should be be in anyway exempt from basic standards of accountability, transparency and efficiency.

    If you want to be unaccountable, opaque and inefficient, do it with your own money.

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