Representatives on the Council of Advisory Boards voted against endorsing a referendum to abolish the Georgetown University Student Association senate and replace it with a new elected assembly Nov. 11.
The elected assembly’s primary responsibility would be to allocate about $1 million through a collaborative process between student organization advisory board representatives and four elected student representatives from each class.
The Student Activities Commission, Performing Arts Advisory Council and the Advisory Board for Club Sports voted in support of the referendum and the Campus Ministry Student Forum voted against, while the Center for Social Justice’s Advisory Board for Student Organizations and the Media Board abstained. CAB consists of one representative from each of the six club advisory boards.
Despite their decision to not endorse the referendum, individual advisory board representatives said the referendum was popular among members of their boards.
The student body will vote on whether to approve the new assembly in a university-wide referendum Dec. 1. One-fourth of the undergraduate population must vote in support of the plan for the referendum to pass.
CAB Chair Janhvi Bhojwani (SFS ’17) said the three advisory boards that did not vote to endorse the reform were reluctant to trust a new funding system under the proposed assembly.
Currently, the allocation of the student activities budget fee is determined by the GUSA senate’s Finance and Appropriations Committee, which hears presentations from advisory boards, the Georgetown Program Board and the Lecture Fund before submitting a budget for approval by the senate.
“Some advisory boards actually prefer this current system. They’re happy with the way things currently work, and they’ve gotten most of their financial asks throughout the years,” Bhojwani said. “Some groups that abstained from voting felt that the entire process of this restructure was really rushed and that we’re making all of these changes and we don’t know whether they will actually be good or bad since it would only go into effect during the next academic year.”
Campus Ministry Student Forum Treasurer Jared Ison (SFS ’17) said the group voted against endorsing the referendum because the current funding system works for CMSF.
“We understand that the current FinApp process doesn’t work for other groups, but CMSF has seen its requests met and we would have rather continued to reform the existing system that had worked for us,” Ison wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Our ultimate vote of no was meant to express our concerns with the plan, but in a productive and collaborative way.”
According to Ison, there were also concerns over whether the reform plan will effectively address problems facing the current funding process and the timeline for passing budgets.
However, Bhojwani said she has experienced problems with the current system for club funding allocations.
“As advisory boards, we’ve had issues with the way the current system works. We have had a lack of an effective voice, and there’s also a lot of volatility in our individual budgets from year to year. It’s been extremely unreliable, there’s a lack of transparency and there’s no way to guarantee impartiality,” Bhojwani said.
Advisory Board for Club Sports Chair Daniel Fain (COL ‘18) said the proposed restructuring is a necessary change to the current funding and appropriations system.
“I support it wholeheartedly. I think that it’s a needed change. Anyone who’s been involved in the funding process, especially from the Advisory Board’s side acknowledges that there are serious problems with our current system,” Fain said.
Fain said the new elected assembly could facilitate better collaboration and representation among the club advisory boards.
“I’m strongly in support because I think this allows advisory boards to collaborate amongst themselves, especially when it comes to things like large projects. I also like that it gives advisory boards a substantive voice. The fact that we have a vote in the final voting process is huge,” Fain said.
GUSA Senate Speaker Richie Mullaney (COL ’18) said the reform is intended to address problems with how club funding is currently allocated.
“We’ve looked at how the senate has functioned for the last decade and looked at good things and bad things, and we’ve really decided that we need to reform the way we do club funding,” Mullaney said. “Over the last 15 years, control over the student activity fee has shifted from advisory boards to the GUSA senate. We want to restore proper club representation in the process.”
GUSA Vice President Chris Fisk (COL ’17) said the new appropriations structure would give club leaders a larger say in the funding process.
“Some of the most frequent complaints that we got at the beginning of our term were from club leaders who felt like their voices were not heard in the club funding process,” Fisk said. “This is one step towards making sure the experts in these areas play a role in deciding exactly where their money is going.”
Bhojwani agreed that the new elected assembly would give club advisory boards an important voice in the budgeting process.
“Personally, I see both pros and cons to this new system, and ultimately I feel it could be an improvement in comparison to what we currently have,” Bhojwani said. “As advisory boards and stakeholders, we would be playing a more substantial role in the funding process, and I think it’s an important and necessary change because we finally get a voice in something that has a significant impact on the way we operate as funding boards and serve our groups.”
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