GUSA May Fund Faith Organizations
Published: Friday, November 30, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 30, 2012 02:11
Campus Ministry is seeking assistance from the GUSA Fund to establish a ministry advisory board for religious student groups, which have been struggling with funding shortages.
Religious student groups have traditionally been financed by individual chaplaincies within Campus Ministry that are funded by donors. However, interreligious coordinator Lisa Pannucci said that the chaplaincies are struggling to find sufficient funding because of increased student participation in events sponsored by religious student groups and would benefit from additional funding controlled by an advisory board.
“With 2,000-plus students on the rolls of these groups, many are outgrowing current levels of support,” Pannucci wrote in an email.
Pannucci expressed hope that the Georgetown University Student Association Fund, which allocates funding to student organizations that do not receive enough funding from their advisory boards, could be a possible solution.
GUSA Finance and Appropriation Chair Sheila Walsh (SFS ’14) said that the student activities fee endowment, which feeds into the GUSA Fund, should not replace the university’s responsibility to support these groups.
“We don’t want student money to make up for what the university no longer funds but should still be funded by the university,” Walsh said.
Currently, five student advisory boards — the Student Activities Commission, the Media Board, the Advisory Board for Club Sports, the Center for Social Justice’s Advisory Board for Student Organizations and the Graduate Student Organization — receive funding from the student activities fee.
According to a club funding reform bill passed by the GUSA senate in 2009, student advisory boards must meet six requirements to be eligible to receive student activities fee funds.
Walsh said that the Ministry’s proposal fails to fulfill the fifth requirement, which states that members of an advisory board must be elected by the leaders of the clubs they represent.
Walsh said she was concerned that the presence of faculty, such as chaplains on the proposed advisory board, would prevent students from having full control over allocation of funding.
Campus Ministry Managing Director Aaron Johnson said that mixed representation of students and faculty on the hypothetical advisory board is compatible with how Campus Ministry student groups have operated in the past.
“With the existence of an independent interfaith student council that has historically functioned in a representative advisory capacity for the department at large, we need either a tandem or a hybrid advisory board model to keep from saddling student groups with redundant governance structures,” Johnson wrote in an email.
Walsh disagrees. “Student activities fee money is paid by all students at Georgetown,” she said, “So it’s important that we allocate this money to students to allocate to student groups. We’re not comfortable allocating to a board that isn’t entirely run by students.”
Walsh stressed that the Finance and Appropriation Committee will work closely with Campus Ministry to ensure that it structures the advisory board in accordance with GUSA’s six points of club reform.
Planning for this advisory board is still in the preliminary stages, and GUSA and Campus Ministry must discuss the proposal with more student groups before progressing, according to Walsh.
“We’ve also heard mixed sentiments from campus ministry student groups that already exist about whether or not they want to move over to the campus ministry advisory board should it be created. We want to see if this is something they’re interested in doing,” she said.
Hindu Student Association Vice President Neha Jejurikar (NHS ’13) said her group, which receives most of its funding from Campus Ministry and applies to campus organizations like GUSA and What’s After Dark for funding for specific events, has not suffered from funding shortages, but would be in favor of the Campus Ministry advisory board.
“Our advisor said that the new advisory board will help us organize a budget and help provide us with exactly what we need,” Jejurikar said. “She’s been good about working with our treasurers and she advised us that this would benefit us. She’s helped us so much in the past, so we trust her.”
Muslim Student Association President Wardah Athar (COL ’13) was also supportive of the idea.
“I think it’s great that they’re trying to get more funding for us and I think it’s good that we get more support from Campus Ministry,” Athar said.
Some student groups such as the Jewish Student Association, which is currently funded by the Student Activities Commission, are also considering transitioning to fall under the new advisory board.
“The biggest pro is that we would be able to facilitate better communication and coordination with the campus ministry and avoid redundancy in programming,” JSA Co-President Isaac Mishlove (SFS ’15) said.
However, Mishlove expressed concern that if the JSA were officially structured under the campus ministry, it would risk being labeled as an entirely religious group.
“One concern is that students might be turned off by the false impression that JSA is just another part of ministry, while in reality a lot of students don’t want to be in a religious group, but just part of social events,” he said. “[JSA] doesn’t exactly fit … the model of the chaplaincy because JSA is more than a religious group. It’s a cultural and social group.”
MSA Treasurer Zainab Ibrahim (NHS ’15) added that the emergence of a common advisory board for student religious groups on campus would facilitate collaboration between different faith groups.
“I think it’s a great way to link different communities,” she said.