Georgetown students will vote today in a referendum on a proposal that could increase funding for student activities and provide long-term financial stability for what has been called a drastically underfunded area of student life.

By establishing a student activities endowment fund and instituting a mandatory student activities fee, the proposal will provide more than $3 million in additional funding after one year. If the plan is approved, the university has pledged to continue to provide current levels of financial support for student activities. Budgets will be further augmented by alumni donations and the activities fee.

The student activities fee would be phased in over the course of three years, beginning in the 2001-02 academic year with $25 dollars per semester and reaching its $50 maximum in 2003-04. According to GUSA, the fee will not exceed $50 per semester and the fee will decrease as the endowment grows. The fee will not increase the previously assessed household contribution for students already receiving financial aid from the university.

Additionally, the plan asks the university to designate $3 million of the $1 billion Third Century Campaign specifically for student activities.

On Wednesday, GUSA held an open forum to inform students about the specifics of the proposal. Officials said that the low turnout at the event was not indicative of the level of student interest and support.

“There was some very engaging conversation that took place tonight,” Vice President for Student Affairs Juan C. Gonzalez said. “Those who were interested came to learn, and I think that is all you can ask for.”

Less than 20 people attended the forum, but sophomore class representative Marty LaFalce (COL ’03), co-sponsor of the proposal, agreed that the sparse audience was not suggestive of the referendum’s anticipated results.

“I am confident that club leaders will encourage their members to support a proposal like this because it will drastically increase the opportunities they will have,” he said.

GUSA President Tawan Davis (COL ’01) expressed his support for the proposal at the forum.

“I believe it is a strong and possible plan that has the potential to work well if students will work through it,” he said. “Not only does it have the ability to increase student financial numbers, it also gives students the power of allocating funds to clubs.”

Student reaction to the proposal at the forum was mixed.

“The fee is the best thing we can do for ourselves as students,” Andrew Milmore (SFS ’01) said. “I personally have no faith in the administration and their promises not to reduce student activity funding. If we can’t trust them not to do it, we need to control it ourselves and ensure by our own doings that we’ll always have enough money.”

Other students said the plan was not the appropriate solution to the funding problem.

“I agree with the student endowment but not with the fee,” said sophomore class representative Oliver “Trey” Street (SFS ’03), who was the only representative to abstain in last week’s GUSA vote on the proposal. “It shifts responsibility from the administration and doesn’t hold them accountable. The students didn’t mismanage the money, they shouldn’t have to assume responsibility for it,” he said.

The 1999 Report on Student Life, published last May found deficiencies in Georgetown’s student activities funding. As a result, the university yielded a total increase of $144,000 for Georgetown Program Board, Volunteer and Public Service Advisory Board, Student Activities Commission, Performing Arts Advisory Council and the Media Board. With a 51 percent increase, SAC received the greatest funding increase.

The report also found that organizations at Georgetown receive less money than organizations at other schools. Georgetown spends an average of $35.71 per student, compared with $103.92 at the University of Pennsylvania and $142.96 at Duke University.

Along with the referendum, today’s election will also include the selection of the vacant junior class representative seat. The candidates are Ben Anderson (COL ’02), Maurice Mark Castellano III (MSB ’02), Benjamin Montanez (COL ’02), Joseph Perry (COL ’02), Dan Zwonitzer (COL ’02) and Tom Weirich (SFS ’02). The election will be held entirely online and voting will be open to students from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. According to Davis, with the help of SAXA Server, all future GUSA elections will be held online. Students will be instructed to enter their official school e-mail addresses and security codes previously assigned in registration e-mail. To avoid double voting, all of the votes will be kept track of in a common database. An e-mail confirmation will be sent to the voter after casting a ballot.

GUSA will hold its first informational meeting for all presidential and vice presidential candidates interested in participating in the upcoming election.

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