The Jan. 28 issue of The GW Hatchet reported the Program Board lost almost $45,000 on its attempt last semester to provide campus-wide programming by hosting a concert at the Smith Center featuring Blues Traveler (“PB scales down programs after $45,000 concert loss,” p. 1).
The Program Board is the most elaborate and extravagant student-run enterprise at GW. With a mammoth budget that puts even the Student Association executive branch to shame, the PB is powerful. It was established under the present constitution as an integral aspect of the GW community that provides students with campus-wide programming and, more importantly, assists and facilitates students and student groups with their own activities and events.
The PB instead has chosen to attempt to host campus-wide programming. Losing $45,000 on a single event is horrific and borders on criminal. Those are student tuition dollars, which could easily be utilized in a more effective and rewarding manner.
In a year in which much talk has been focused on student group allocations and the SA executive budget, let us put this loss in perspective:
On a single event, the PB lost the equivalent of nearly the entire Student Association budget.
On a single event, the PB lost money that could have funded other, more diverse student groups.
On a single event, the PB lost money that could have gone to academics, technology upgrades, renovations, etc.
The PB dubiously claims this loss will not adversely affect programming for the upcoming semester. It can be reasonably assumed that future programming would be much better with the $45,000 than without it. The PB will now exert a significant amount of effort attempting to court corporate sponsors to make up for the wasted funds – efforts that would be better spent on planning events than on refunding them.
There are calculated risks in all endeavors. However, any risk that could possibly result in a staggering loss of nearly $50,000 ought to be avoided. This clearly shows poor planning, poor management and poor leadership.
In a day and age when student groups fight with the SA over allocations – sometimes amounting to no more than $200 – the PB must act responsibly.
Student groups have recently suffered through the mid-year review process, reminding many people of just how difficult it is to keep student groups funded. Groups must jump through hoops and play games with the SA to receive even the most minimal funding.
Once the funding has been acquired, the group must once again traverse the swamps of red tape that surround their allocations and assume an inferior role vis-?-vis the SA in order to actually spend their money. Student groups spend half their time trying to use their allocation rather than actually holding events. The work required to utilize their rightful resources outweighs the benefits from hosting an event. The SA acts as though it is its allocation when in reality it is the students’ allocation; the SA is simply there to ensure that funds are appropriately spent.
So where does the Program Board fit into all of this?
Because the PB is distinct and separate from the SA under the constitution, it is in essence above the law. It has its own budget and can spend tens of thousands of dollars and not have to deal with the SA. At the end of the academic year, it can spend $30,000 on brand-new, top-of-the-line computers and printers in order to deplete its budget.
In comparison, at the end of the year, most student groups buy $30 in pizza to deplete their budgets. If the PB were a student group and subjected to SA bureaucracy, it would have been disbanded long ago for inefficiency and poor resource allocation. If the PB were a student group, it would never host any events because it would spend half its time trying to get funding for the events from the SA.
The SA and PB appear to be two extremes. One stifles fruitful programs planned by students with a process that can drive even the most patient person insane; the other has so much money it is wretchedly ineffective.
It is the responsibility of students at this University to ensure their money is spent in an appropriate and responsible manner not only by the administration, but also by their peers in the SA and PB. It is your responsibility to forge a community and government that works for you, not against you. It is your GW.
Given our human and financial resources, the potential of student government at a unique institution such as GW is limitless. It is shameful that our present system works against students rather than for them.
-The writer is a senior majoring in international affairs.