The Student Association has created a finance reform commission to ensure proper allocation of funds to student groups.
Commission members said this effort evolved because students must understand how their tuition dollars are distributed.
The commission will “find a better method of appropriating funds to student organizations” and “investigate and inform students to where their students’ fee is sent,” according to its mission statement.
“The commission was formed partly in the hope of investigating to see if maybe there is a better way of allocating funds to student groups,” said undergraduate Sen. Jason Haber (CSAS).
The commission is contacting student governments at other schools, like Tulane University in Louisiana, to evaluate their systems of allocating funds. The committee, which recently met for the first time, is also in the process of formulating two surveys, one for student groups and the other for the general student body, commission members said.
The current channel
“The way the system is set up, the SA is being used and abused by the administration,” said undergraduate Sen. Mark Levin (ESIA). “The administration does not want to be the one funding student groups, they want to make a student group (the SA) do it. I say, make the students do it – that’s the voucher system.”
The present system calls for one registered group, the SA, to allocate funds to other registered organizations, Levin said.
The finance committee teams graduate Sen. J.P. Blackford (SEAS), the finance committee chair, with five other graduate students, one undergraduate and one freshman, non-voting member. They allocate to student groups the funds received by the SA from the student fee tagged to all students’ bills.
Only 3 percent of the $33 per credit hour student fee goes to the SA to fund student groups. The administration does not seem to know where the other 97 percent goes, Haber said.
The student fee, which Levin calls a “tax,” requires students to submit money to the SA even though they have no say in how the money is allotted.
“The way the system is set up right now is more toward a taxation without representation system,” Levin said.
Levin noted that GW houses groups that may have conflicting ideas. Under the current system, students are equally funding groups they support and those which they do not.
“Every time (the SA allocates funds), there is a huge Senate meeting, with many student groups completely disappointed with how much money they received,” he said. “What do they say? I hate the SA … It’s not the SA’s fault, and that is why we need to change the system.”
Vouch for your group
A reform measure the commission will propose to the SA is the voucher system, spearheaded by Levin.
Under the voucher system, students would have the opportunity to allocate their student fees to the groups they support.
If students have a $10 student fee, they can designate half of that to one of the groups they are involved with, and the other half to another group to which they are connected, Levin explained.
The money from incoming freshmen would be put into a buffer fund. This extra money would go into a student group co-sponsorship fund. The co-sponsorship fund for the SA would increase from $10,000 to $25,000, Levin said.
Groups that receive the most funds directly from students also will be given the largest portion of money from this co-sponsorship fund, Levin said.
“(The voucher system) is geared toward promoting students’ rights, individuals’ rights,” Levin said.
This system would transfer the power of a eight-member finance committee to the student body as a whole, Levin added.
Levin theorizes that apathy toward the SA and student groups on campus would decrease under this system.
Student groups would be forced to solicit support and membership from the student body. This would encourage more students to join campus organizations, Levin said.
“We need to lower the apathy level,” Levin said. “And the way you do that is to make people go out and garner votes, make people go out and garner support for their clubs.”
“I truly believe that the way the system is set up, the SA is very authoritative. We need to put the power back in the hands of the students. And the way you do that is through the voucher system,” Levin said.