Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Sunday, November 18, 2018

SG to hold some paid members accountable for stipends with new bill

The Undergraduate Senate unanimously passed a bill Sunday to increase accountability for Student Government directors and executives who receive stipends from the student activity fee.

Beginning this week, the legislation will require all paid members to report to the Senate once a semester, in addition to filling out a form detailing their goals and current projects every other month. The information gathered through this process will be used to decide how much money each director will receive in future budget cycles.

The form must be submitted to the Speaker of the Senate and the chair of the Committee on Communication, Outreach, Programming and Services. The COPS chair will then present it to the full Senate. Directors who fail to submit this document or appear before the Senate, the bill states, may have their pay cut in subsequent budget cycles.

Alexis Arnell, a senator for the campus at-large and member of the Senate Finance Committee, wrote the bill with Sam Shumate, a senator for the class of 2018. Arnell believes that the information directors submit will be “a great tool at the budget table” when the committee sets stipends for the next budget cycle.

“I really believe in transparency and accountability, especially in an organization that works for students on campus,” Arnell said in an interview with The Eagle. “Being a student who pays a lot of money to go here, I want to know where my activity fee is going.”

Arnell emphasized that the requirements are meant to gather information, not find ways to cut pay for current directors. No stipends will change during the current budget cycle.

“It’s not a guarantee that these people will get a budget cut,” she said. “That’s not what we’re looking to do. We want to make the best use of our money.”

Diane Roznowski, the director of design for SG, explained that money is awarded to members of SG with particularly demanding positions. This is meant to cover their basic expenses, so that students who could otherwise not afford to forego paying jobs are able to give SG their full attention.

Ten percent of the Undergraduate Activity Fee, which is $88.50 for each full-time student this year, is allotted to SG for this purpose. Stipend amounts are set yearly by the Senate Finance Committee, along with the previous administration’s speaker and comptroller.

Twenty members of SG are currently receiving stipends, according to a report from the Senate’s Finance Committee. The president, vice-president, comptroller and secretary were elected by the student body, while the rest were appointed. The president is the highest-paid executive, with $9,500; the other three executives are paid $7,500 each. The appointed members, from the Chief of Staff to a few deputy directors, receive between $3,500 and $500 each.

Roznowski, who received a stipend last year, said she supports the bill.

“It’s not fair for me to get $300 of student money if you don’t believe I’m doing enough work to deserve that,” she said at the Senate meeting. “We have directors making [a lot] of money, and we have a history in student government of appointing friends to these positions. [We need to] keep people accountable for the work they’re doing.”

Senate Speaker Will Mascaro, who receives a stipend but does not vote on issues in the Senate, said he also supports the bill. Last year, he encouraged directors to come before the Senate with little success, and he said he is excited to have legislation that will change this.

“I think it’s important that students have access to all the information they could want on what individuals paid with their money are doing,” Mascaro said. “This legislation provides that information and ensures that they are held accountable.”

ebloomberg@theeagleonline.com

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the name of the Committee on Communication, Outreach, Programming and Services. 


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