Last week, some students went to social media outlets to express their concerns about Student Senate and various organizations receiving stipends or salaries. The controversy started after Student Senate members discussed the stipends that their Executive Board and chairpeople would receive this term at their meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 4.
“I frankly was rather surprised that there was such a big backlash, mainly because this is something that’s happened before,” sophomore and Campus Life Chair Tevin Liao said.
Liao noted that the Senate stipends are controversial every year, but he thinks the debate was heightened this year because of new social media outlets.
“I think this does come as a result of Yik Yak being a thing now,” he said. “People are less afraid to speak up … because they don’t have to put a name and a face to it.”
Senior Anushree Kedia was one of the students who was upset by the stipends. She posted about it on Facebook and said that this was the first time she was aware of them.
“They are just not doing enough to get the $200 per term. They have weekly meetings, but what organization doesn’t? Everyone meets weekly. And if you’re interested in it and that’s what you’re passionate about, why are you getting paid? … Every club requires a lot of effort and energy and time,” Kedia said in a later interview.
At the end of the last academic year, Student Senate voted to approve the budget for this year that comes out of Student Activity fees. This budget included $7,000 allotted for Senate stipends for the 2014-2015 academic year.
According to junior Srichandra Masabathula, who was Student Senate’s treasurer last year, Senate uses $6,000 of this fund for stipends and uses the extra $1,000 to hold Executive Board events such as campus coffee meetings. This year there are a total of 10 Executive Board members and chairpeople, who each receive $200 per term in stipends. Last year, there were only eight students on Senate who received stipends of $250 per term.
“It’s not as if the stipends come out of the blue. They were approved by Senate before the start of the year,” Masabathula said. “Compared to the other stipends that other student organizations get, the amount of stipends that Student Senate gets, I think it’s just not comparable. … I don’t know why $200 is becoming such a big issue.”
Students on social media also discussed their opinions on students in publications receiving stipends. Senate approved $50,540 for stipends for students in publications — including TKS, WVKC, Catch, Quiver, Folio and Cellar Door.
Editor in Chief of Cellar Door and junior Carmen Ribaudo said that this is the first year that Cellar Door staff has received stipends.
“It makes it a little more than just something you put on your resume. I think if you’re getting paid you take it more seriously,” Ribaudo said. “I think it also makes people more excited to be part of it.”
Kedia questioned whether students involved in other clubs should get paid because members of Student Senate receive stipends based on the time they put into the organization. Kedia, who is President of Alumni Ambassadors and Co-President of Business Club said that club presidents also put a lot of time into their work.
“The main issue is just that their standpoint, from what I understand, is that they put a lot of time and effort into Student Senate which is why they should get paid, but you could say that about anything and everything. Other organizations should get paid too then,” she said.
Junior Senator Charlie Harned said that he fears students would take advantage of the stipends and be a part of clubs just for monetary reward. He said that clubs can also only reach a limited part of the campus while Student Senate and publications are responsive to the entire student body.
“The tough thing about it for me is it’s very conducive to people either creating clubs for the purpose of having an exec to get paid or running for exec just for the purpose of getting paid. That’s an issue because these clubs could be very limited in their reach or in their scope,” Harned said.
Liao explained that stipends are never advertised to students considering running for Executive Board, as they do not want that to be a motivator for students interested in the position.
“The stipends are never something we have marketed when we had the Exec elections because that’s not something that should drive a person to run for an Exec position in Senate. Because if you’re driven by that $200 you’re frankly not going to do as good of a job,” he said.
Harned encouraged students with concerns to attend Senate meetings to express their thoughts.
“If people do feel strongly against it or in favor of it they really do need to come to Senate and voice that opinion. … It’s hard for Senators to read and take seriously anonymous things on Yik Yak,” he said. “The only way to really access the entire Student Senate body is to go to Senate.”