CUSC Split Over $100k Proposal

Jessica Macey, Executive Editor

Clark University Student Council voted on a $100k cumulative surplus proposal aimed at creating opportunities for student business ventures.

The proposal was split into three parts: Clark Student Enterprises, Clark Student Ventures, and Clark Financial Group. Clark Student Enterprises was passed and allocated $20k. Clark Student Ventures and Clark Financial Group did not pass.

During a three hour meeting in the library’s Fuller Music Room on Monday, members of CUSC as well as a few members of the public debated the proposal before deciding to vote.

Clark Student Enterprises proposes the consolidation of student-run businesses under a single management entity, and allocates $20k for that purpose.

Currently-existing businesses of this type are the Community Thrift Store, the Local Root, and the Copy Center. Due to how each was organized at the time of its creation, the three businesses operate under three separate university departments.  This proposal would consolidate them under one organizational entity and ensure that all new businesses be placed under the same entity.

“Consolidating University-supported student-run businesses is one step toward coordinating oversight and leveraging the learning and developmental benefits they provide,” continues the proposal.

Clark Student Ventures aimed to support student entrepreneurship through the creation of a system of education, mentorship, and financial assistance.  Students with business ideas would be able to participate in the Lean Launchpad Module, a seven-week curriculum taught by Professor John Dobson of the Graduate School of Management designed to help students transform business ideas into feasible business models.

After the completion of the curriculum, students would be eligible to apply for a $1000 loan from the Venture Fund to begin their business. Applications would be reviewed by an advisory committee made up of students, staff, and faculty. These loans would be paid back with ten percent interest after one year. Loans that were unable to be paid back will be forgiven.

This section of the proposal was allocated $40k.

The intention of the Clark Financial Group portion of the proposal was to offer education on finance and investment through “a hands-on approach that bridges the gap between classroom concepts and real world applications, giving students the opportunity to invest real capital,” according to the proposal document.

A student-managed $40k investment fund would be created, along with a semester-long curriculum that teaches students the basics of finance and investment. After completing the curriculum, students would be able to participate in an application and interview process to become analysts for the fund. Students who were chosen to become analysts would research stocks and submit pitches on which businesses to invest in. Pitches would be assessed by a research team, and the best ones would be sent to the Board of Directors, comprised of students, staff, and faculty, for consideration.

CUSC was split on the proposal for a number of reasons, and debate began with outgoing Undergraduate Student Council President Cory Bisbee (‘19) and incoming Undergraduate Student Council President Andres Gvirtz (‘18) presenting in favor of and in opposition of the proposal, respectively.

Bisbee, who has been working on this proposal since Fall 2015, began by explaining the details. He was followed by Gvirtz, who showed a powerpoint presentation on his analysis of the proposal’s strengths and weaknesses.

“One thing I want to make very clear … this is not Cory versus I in any way,” said Gvirtz before beginning.

“Some of the ideas are really good, and since they’re really good, we need to implement them in the right way,” he explained.

A key concern he expressed was over potential loss of money through Clark Student Ventures.

“Profits are capped, losses are not,” he explained, providing graphs and calculations in support of his claim.

He pointed out that the maximum amount of money that could be returned to the fund would be the total amount of the loans plus ten percent interest, while losses could be much greater.

His analysis showed that a high percentage of businesses would need to succeed and pay back the loan with interest in order to not lose money. He explained that it often takes time for businesses to make a profit, and even successful ones may lose money for more than a year after creation.

Although he had concerns, Gvirtz explained that he recognized the merits of the proposal.

“The question is not ‘is it worth it?’ but ‘is it ready to get funding’?” he said, emphasizing that “this needs the process it deserves.”

He suggested a trial with a smaller amount of money before committing the full $40k to it.

Much of the support for the proposal centered around the potential for the creation of new student businesses.

“I do see benefits in having more [student-run] businesses,” said representative Jonathan Gober (‘19). “It might give back to more than Clark, it might give back to Worcester, and that’s something that’s really important to me as a Clarkie.”

Discussion of various parts of the proposal soon opened into debate over the broader implications of its implementation and the process through which it was brought to the table.

Initially proposed to CUSC Thursday, March 16, little time passed between its introduction and the vote on Monday. For some, this was a cause for concern.

Representative Laura Barker (‘17) explained that she had heard from a few concerned constituents before the meeting Monday.

“No one knew this was happening, and a lot of people are mad about that, honestly,” she said. “This is their money and they [should] know where it’s going.”

Bisbee explained that although the proposal was brought to CUSC recently, it had been in the works for over a year.  It was a long process that involved many iterations and significant collaboration with various individuals and groups within the Clark community, such as the Innovation and Entrepreneurship department. It was only last week that the last meeting to finalize the proposal took place, Bisbee explained.

After a long period of discussion, representative David Sullivan (‘20) motioned to vote on the proposal in three separate parts.

Adam Katzman (‘18) then motioned to table the proposal.

Debate followed on the topic of tabling. Some argued that the proposal needs more discussion, and others argued that the opportunity would be lost if a vote was not taken.

Eventually the motion to table was overturned, and voting took place, ultimately resulting in a partial success for the proposal through the passing of Clark Student Enterprises.