Opinion: AUSG should only have need-based stipends
Money spent on stipends could be put to better use
Until last week, I had no real opinion on AUSG. What I do know is this: AUSG is a glorified advocacy group that you are elected to join. Yes, it’s true, they do some good work, but at the end of the day, AUSG has no real power on campus. It’s basically a club that we pay for via our student activity fee in charge of advocating on behalf of all of us. I was a part of student council in high school, so I admired their passion and their dedication to govern their peers. I know that student government in high school and college are different, but I felt that I could relate to them a little bit. However, I was shocked to find out that most AUSG members are paid.
In high school, I was paid zilch — and I was okay with that. Being in student government was a mutually beneficial relationship that didn’t need payment, in my opinion. My peers elected me (and gave me something shiny to put on my résumé), and in turn, I fought hard for them and their wishes.
Let’s break down how much they are actually paid. According to the AUSG spring 2021 stipend bill, the President, the Vice President, the Secretary, and the Treasurer receives $1,900 in compensation. From there, compensation decreases for the lower ranking members of AUSG. The Clerk of the Undergraduate Senate is paid the least, receiving only $50 of compensation for their efforts.
The AUSG website also explains the reasoning behind stipends. They explain that “some members of Student Government are paid stipends to ensure that they can commit the amount of time required by their positions, with the goal that no one is excluded from leadership positions because of their own financial situation.” The last part is something that I can get behind. I do believe that everyone should have access to the same opportunities, no matter what their financial status is or what their situation looks like. I’m not trying to advocate for an end to the stipend system; that would build back the barriers the stipends were trying to dismantle. Still, I think at least some of the $21,780 allocated for stipends could be put to better use. Stipends should be available on a need-based basis. If an AUSG member has financial need, they should be able to apply for a stipend. But other than that, the use of stipends seems to be a waste of our money.
Does the President really need a stipend? Does the Comptroller or Vice President need a stipend? I think the money could be better spent somewhere else. In my view, it’s a bit hypocritical. The President is already getting enough out of their position. Once elected, they have something amazing to put on their résumé, something any employer will swoon over. The skills gained will give you a competitive edge in the job market. Also, it’s their decision to run. They should be able to commit the time and energy into being President without the $1,900 bonus. For example, I chose to apply and become part of The Eagle staff because it’s something I was passionate about and wanted to do. I’m not getting paid. Shouldn’t members of AUSG run for the same reasons I joined The Eagle? Using their logic, shouldn’t I demand a stipend from the student activity fee for writing for The Eagle? The Eagle’s editor-in-chief receives a stipend, along with other leaders within Student Media.
The $21,780 in total that AUSG spends on its own stipends should be invested in more programming. For example, that money could be used to host on-campus socials or other treats or speakers and events that students will find more beneficial than if that money was spent on stipends. If invested in more programming, other clubs and organizations could have a chance to thrive with the extra capital. Extra money would help them be able to host more activities or provide more resources for the wider student body, rather than just going to a few select students.
Stipends are largely unnecessary. AUSG is just like any other club, so I’m not sure why it is spending $21,780 to pay its members? The funds allocated to the stipend budget should be used in more positive and impactful ways. People who are running for AUSG should be prepared to do the job without getting thousands of dollars in compensation. It’s something they choose to dedicate their time to as an extracurricular rather than an actual job. The money could — and should — be spent in a different way to benefit the entire AU community rather than just a few select members.
Riley Lorgus is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences and an opinion columnist for The Eagle.