Last year, we saw reports of a plan to raise funds for student activities from corporations, complete with administration support. It was pie in the sky. We read also of a commitment to increase funding per student by $100,000 per year for three years. Newly arrived Vice President for Student Affairs Juan C. Gonzalez nixed that idea before unpacking. A news story about GUSA last semester (“Alumni Donation Program Approved,” Oct. 24, p.1) had alumni donating to student activities as a done deal, with funds set to roll in. The deal has yet to close.

One is naturally skeptical, not of aspirations, but how goals are presented. GUSA’s recent plan is also not what it promises to be. Reported only last week, GUSA will put it to a referendum today. A week? Few students will have read it. Not good.

The proposal has three components: a tuition increase in the form of an activities fee, a request for the university’s commitment of $3 million (out of $1 billion) for activities endowment and a request to allow alumni donations to the new endowment. Half the fee would also go into the endowment, the rest would be spent. Interest would eventually pay out for activities.

No component is fully what we are told in the papers, and, contrary to the GUSA resolution’s wording, none “will suffice.”

Only one GUSA representative, Trey Street (SFS ’03), refused to support the plan. Street supported the endowment but was against the fee. “We are condoning the inefficiency of the university,” he argued. Street should get the “Profile in Courage Award,” if we only had a Kennedy to give it. In most countries students take to the streets when tuition rises. Here student government encourages the hikes.

Of course, Gonzalez is tickled pink. He was told to cut 10 percent of his budget by the end of the year, almost $1 million. He said the cut would come from staff, and not activities funding. Now he has one less bureaucrat to promote to a job at another college. In fact, the fee will supply less money than the cost of one staffer’s salary and benefits.

The immorality of increasing tuition without first demanding current spending be cut should not be lost on anyone. Sure, a third of us will not mind. For another third it’s a grocery bill, or one less trip home.

We are told in reports, though nowhere in the proposal, that the final third, largely dependent on grants and loans, will not see “household contribution” rise. But contrived tuition increases are no more right if we milk taxpayer-subsidized aid for our wants and excesses.

The proposal would also add yet another “funding board” to GUSA’s labyrinth. SAC and other funding boards would now go begging for pennies. Perhaps it is too simple, but why not allow students to give $100 to the organizations they like with no intervening bureaucracy?

Then there’s the endowment, a good idea, although one wonders why GUSA took 17 years to get into the alumni business. As it stands, however, it “will [not] suffice.” The university is asked to give $3 million of its $1 billion campaign. That is a dedication to enhance campus culture of only .3 percent of the university’s goal. Outrageous.

Under the plan that both GUSA President Tawan Davis (COL ’01) and SAC Chairman Terry Platchek (COL ’01) describe as the best thing they’ve seen, Georgetown will spend all of $220 per student by 2015 for activities. For perspective, that is half of what Vanderbilt University spends per student now! This is before calculating what $220 in 2015 represents after inflation.

The plan also asks the university to allow alumni to donate to the activities endowment. But the proponents are misleading. “Alums will be able to give back to the groups they were involved in,” said the article.

In fact, alumni could only direct money to the single endowment, the interest from which will be distributed by the new “funding board.” GUSA leaders have missed the mark.

They assume most students (and alumni) think as they do. That’s doubtful. Most of us love Georgetown, as Edmund Burke said of nations, by loving first our “small platoons.”

Moreover, as Davis points out, funding is only one of four complaints students share. We complain of limited space. As the Report on Student Life described, student organizations have approximately 29.5 square feet of space, while 484.2 square feet is allocated per student affairs administrator. We complain about a “bureaucracy-laden” system, which apparently GUSA does not intend to diminish.

Finally, we complain about having, as Davis says, “little voice on issues that affect our lives.” The week’s notice on this latest proposal makes the point.

If the referendum allows a split, I will vote against the fee. It is irresponsible. I will vote for the endowment, just as a start.

Otherwise I will abstain, as Street did, because GUSA leaders seem to think that their proposal “will suffice.”

Barry Schiffman is a senior in the College.

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