October 24, 2014

SG discusses stipends as petition reaches goal

Several College Council (CC) representatives voiced their opposition to the decision to pay stipends to new executive cabinet appointees at Student Government’s (SG) weekly meeting on Wednesday, while the executive slate cited the need to encourage socioeconomic diversity. The following day, students submitted a petition with over 700 signatures calling for a referendum on the stipends to SG.

“When I made this executive order in the summer, I had no idea that it would come to this [level of controversy]. Other slates went through a similar process of appointing new positions, but the people elected were not paid,” Kissinger said during the meeting.

Kissinger established the power of the SG president to issue executive orders over the summer and then released a series of unprecedented orders creating five new positions: chief of staff, director of communications, director of finance, director of new ventures, and director of technology. After an application process, he then appointed people to those roles, who would be supported through a total stipend of $4,200, or about 0.2 percent of SG’s annual budget. Three other SG positions (webmaster, photographer, and graphic designer) already receive hourly wages.

CC, the undergraduate arm of SG, voted in favor of appointing Kissinger’s picks to the cabinet at their meeting on October 16, and Graduate Council seconded their approval on October 20.

The reasoning behind this order revolves around encouraging people to commit to their positions and to increase productivity. “This is about accessibility and accountability,” Arlin Hill, SG’s vice president for administration, said at the meeting.

In a statement posted on the SG website on October 20, Kissinger said that the stipends also serve as an aid to students who wanted to serve on SG but needed to earn money at the same time. “We wanted to design a system that was simply meant to help to support students who need to support themselves, students who we— as an organization and a student body—ought to make sure are able to have a seat at the table,” he wrote.

Several SG members voiced their disagreement with the stipends and the criticism it caused to be heaped on them. “Personally, I don’t agree with the process. Students should have been given the opportunity to share their input a long time ago,” Blaine Crawford, a second-year CC representative said.

The petition, submitted by third-year Kevin Hasenfang, listed 733 student signatures. A petition needs 717 signatures, or 5 percent of the student association, to force a referendum on an issue, according to the constitution. There will most likely be a referendum within the month, but this will be done once the petition’s signatures are checked for validity. According to Kissinger, the results of the referendum are not binding, but several representatives at the meeting expressed interest in gathering more formal student input through a town hall format or office hours.

In the meantime, Student Government is determining how they will respond to students’ concerns regarding issues for the longterm.

“There is a deeper problem about how SG presents itself,” said Katherine Shen, another second-year CC representative.