SG Votes to Pay Its Leadership Thousands Per Year

Next year’s Executive Slate issued a statement opposing the payment plan after the vote. SG also passed a resolution on UCPD and mental health.

By Deepti Sailappan, Managing Editor ('19-'20)

Student Government (SG) voted Monday to pay its president $4,500 per year and the two vice presidents $2,250 per year starting in the fall. The incoming Executive Slate released a statement opposing the proposal after the vote.

The resolution stipulates that stipends will be sourced from the SG Administrative budget, which is currently $21,000. The Committee on Recognized Student Organizations (CORSO), which also awards yearly grants to RSO leaders through the Student Leadership Recognition and Access Program (SLRA), will administer the payments to Executive Slate.

The resolution passed 15–4, with six abstentions. Among the abstentions were College Council members Sat Gupta, a second-year and the incoming SG president, and first-year Malay Trivedi, the incoming vice president of student affairs.

In a short speech preceding the vote, Gupta urged voters to consider the implications of SG choosing to pay some of its own members.

“People are entrusting us with their Student Life fees,” he said. “It’s not a good look for SG.”

After the meeting, the 2018–2019 Unite Executive Slate—which also includes second-year Natalie Jusko, incoming vice president of administration, who is not currently on College Council—released a statement opposing several aspects of the payment proposal.

“We understand the concerns of the student body regarding this issue, and want you to know that we have concerns of our own,” reads the statement, posted on the Unite slate’s Facebook page.

The statement advocates for payments to be restricted to students on financial aid or work study, and calls the stipend amounts “arbitrary,” adding that there should have been more time for student feedback on the proposal’s details before voting on the resolution.

Gupta, Jusko, and Trivedi also take issue with the disparity between SG and RSO leaders, who are not paid, and volunteered to offer up their executive pay in the case of an SG budget deficit.

A similar resolution to pay Executive Slate failed in May 2016, with the General Assembly voting instead to allocate funds proposed for the payments to the SLRA.

Funding for the SLRA and RSOs were major points of contention in the days before voting on Monday’s resolution.

Class of 2020 proxy voting member Alisha Harris—who later abstained from voting—brought up the General Assembly’s vote in April to decrease funding for the SLRA from $12,500 to $4,500, adding that the funds were likely underutilized because of a lack of student awareness about the SLRA program. The SLRA gives stipends of several hundred dollars to student leaders, but the program gave only 15 of its 26 budgeted awards last cycle.

Some members argued that Executive Slate does not necessarily deserve more compensation than RSO leaders. “If I go and make a poster for a film screening to promote the Anime Society, I don’t expect to be paid,” said Class of 2021 Representative Tony Ma, a member of SG’s Finance and Annual Allocations Committees.  “[This is] both selfish and a poor use of Student Life funds.”

“I think the work that Executive Slate does is completely different from what an RSO leader does,” countered fourth-year and current SG president Calvin Cottrell. “This is not to diminish the work that RSO leaders do.”

Cottrell noted that $9,000 also represents less than 0.4 percent of total SG funds, adding, “RSOs will take as much money as you give them.”

Other SG members discussed the need to make SG participation accessible to students of diverse financial backgrounds.

Jordan Johansen, the third-year Ph.D student who initially proposed the resolution, cited a statistic from the American Student Government Association that 77 percent of elected student government leaders nationwide are financially compensated.

“Personally, to attend this University, I need to work three jobs,” said Class of 2020 Representative and incoming Community and Government Liaison Marlin Figgins. “I work 30 hours per week. I would have personally run for Executive Slate if I knew I could work one less job.”

At the meeting, Class of 2018 Representative Cosmo Albrecht brought up the fact that Cottrell, who repeatedly voiced support for the proposal on Monday, previously opposed the 2016 proposal as a second-year Class of 2018 representative.

At the voting on the 2016 resolution in May of that year, Cottrell was the one to propose allocating funds for Executive Slate pay for the SLRA instead.

During Monday’s meeting, SG also voted to approve a resolution focusing on the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) and mental health; it was drafted following the shooting of Charles Thomas on April 3.

The resolution, which passed 17–4 with four abstentions, calls for increased UCPD transparency, with a public release of all protocols and an Independent Review Committee that is more reflective of non-University affiliates living in the area.

Cottrell said that he met recently with Associate Vice President of Safety & Security Eric Heath, for “a pretty wide-ranging…conversation” on the feasibility of SG’s proposals regarding UCPD.

During the meeting, Graduate Council representative Hannah Burnett from the Division of the Social Sciences proposed an amendment to disarm UCPD entirely. The amendment sparked debate but ultimately failed, with six ayes, 18 nays, and one abstention.

In response to a question about Tasers from Harris, Cottrell said that the topic came up in his discussion with Heath. He said that Heath discouraged the use of Tasers by University police, saying that because Tasers are non-deadly, they tend to be used in tense situations even when not absolutely necessary. According to Heath, Tasers also often do not work in cold climates, Cottrell said.

The resolution also lists several suggested University measures to improve mental health on campus. These include more transparency in the referral rates, return rates, and usage rates by demographic of Student Counseling Services and Student Health Services.

Another proposal is a working group composed of University students, faculty, and staff, who would research the state of mental health on campus and recommend policy changes. The proposed working group would have more oversight from central administration and more power than the existing Student Health Advisory Board, according to Cottrell.

At the meeting, SG also unanimously approved bylaw revisions, a resolution declaring support for gun violence research at the University, and funding allocations for the Community Service Fund and the Program Coordinating Council.

Cottrell closed the meeting by recapping the past year, which he called “a banner year for Student Government,” and highlighted SG’s expanded programming for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. He also announced a reiteration of the Monumental Women Project next year.