In the upcoming campus elections, students will be asked to vote on a referendum to increase the student fee from $1 per credit hour to $2 per credit hour, up to 15 credit hours per semester. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I’ve been intimately involved in discussions concerning the finances of the Student Association. My time serving on the committee has made one thing clear: student organizations desperately need more money.
With more money also comes more responsibility, and students still remain wary of the SA’s ability to manage the current budget. These concerns are legitimate and must be fully addressed. On the one hand, students should take comfort in the fact that the SA and University administrators have worked closely to develop 17 new procedures for ensuring financial accuracy. While this year has brought great strides toward financial accountability, the University now must follow up with one final step, an audit of the SA and the University books.
Restoring students’ confidence is essential for this referendum, and ultimately for the future of student organizations. If the increase is approved, student group allocations will be substantially improved, with more money available to newer groups. Currently, GW has more than 200 student groups on campus, and that number expands as the enrollment and interests of students continue to grow. For example, within the past five years, the University has seen record enrollment in both the undergraduate and graduate divisions of GW. With the student body reaching a maximum capacity, new money into the SA will be limited, and student groups will continue to form. This is a recipe for disaster.
One of the main functions of the SA is to finance student groups on campus. While often a thankless job, the challenge will become near impossible if the status of funding is left unchanged. Every group should have the finances it needs to better serve the student body. With additional finances, students will have the opportunity to participate in more activities, join more groups, meet people with similar interests and find their niche in the GW community.
The best way to ensure that an increase will benefit students is to make sure that SA finances are being used efficiently and effectively. Although some argue that an audit isn’t necessary, the SA has an obligation to act in the best interests of the student body. An audit will help to determine misplaced funds, as well as find places where money can be spent more wisely. Most importantly, it will restore students’ confidence. The time for an audit is now.
-The writer, a Student Association senator, is a candidate for SA executive vice president.