Update 10/20/2014: The Graduate Council voted unanimously to confirm the nominees for Cabinet positions.
Update 10/21/2014: The Chicago Maroon Editorial Board endorsed the compensation of appointed staff. Read their editorial here.
This statement is being made by the President in response to an article in the Chicago Maroon, “SG President creates new executive cabinet,” published on 10/17/2014, and the public concern over the matters of appointed positions and their compensation.
On executive orders
Executive orders do nothing to expand or in any way affect the authority of the President. Their only purpose is to make public the actions that the President or Executive Committee takes in a formalized, standardized manner. They contain no new “power,” as suggested by the Maroon article prompting this discussion. Their sole purpose was to document the actions we take, and unfortunately that was not communicated by the Maroon. The executive orders in question strictly outline the responsibilities and means of accountability for appointed positions in the Cabinet; the nomination of individuals to fill those positions is a separate process.
On appointed positions
The appointment process was not changed in any way by the executive orders; as per the Constitution and By-Laws, nominations are made by the President and must be confirmed with the approval of the Assembly, the elected representatives of the student body. As noted in the Maroon, the College Council approved the five nominations; the Graduate Council has yet to vote on their appointment. An important note is that this vote was simply to confirm nominees in their position, not approving their compensation. These positions were brought into the organization because we agree that Student Government can and should do more in order to improve the student experience, and having a staff that is able to assist in the operation of the organization (such as building a robust accounting system, performing data analyses so we can look at how to spend our budget to better support students, or designing our newsletters) makes it easier for elected officers to do what we were elected to do, and work to build a strong, responsive, active organization. Individuals were selected for the positions through an open and rigorous application process that was available to all students, and none of those selected were had any relationship with the President prior to their involvement in SG. They were selected because they shared our vision for an organization that simply does more and is more meaningful in its operation.
Compensation of staff has historically been a matter decided by Executive Slate, and wages come out of the administrative budget, a part of the budget that is managed by the Executive Slate and meant to cover operating costs. The administrative budget was not expanded to fund these stipends, and they in no way affect the funding that RSOs receive. Student Government has regularly employed one or more secretaries. We also employ a graphic designer, webmaster, and photographer. Because the time spent working in these positions can be easily measured, they are paid an hourly wage. However, the work that individuals in the Cabinet do is more difficult to precisely quantify. Ultimately, this boils down to a conversation on the difference between salaried positions and those paid at an hourly rate.
Proceeding from the idea that all students, regardless of financial background, should have the ability to take part in the work we do as an organization, and that students performing administrative labor deserve to be compensated for that, the Executive Slate decided that a stipend would be the best form of compensation. The rate we decided upon was $500 per quarter for the Chief of Staff, and $300 per quarter for the Directors of Communications, Finance, and New Ventures. In all, this is $4,200 per year that goes to compensation for appointed positions. That comes out to being 0.2% of our annual budget, an overhead that no office on campus could come close to rivaling. This is something important that is worth emphasizing: Student Government disburses $2.1 million in funding per year with an incredibly low overhead. If that work were to be taken on by the University, it would require the hiring of several full-time, salaried positions, increasing overhead by orders of magnitude.
The sort of compensation offered by stipends is not, compared to other institutions, an irregular occurrence. The American Student Government Association studied the issue and found that nearly eighty percent of colleges and universities offer some sort of compensation to their officers. This includes over fifty percent of private universities. 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.
On Student Government
With a budget of over two million dollars, Student Government’s mission is supporting student life, whether that is through funding RSOs or providing services to students, including the New York Times readership program, airport shuttles at the end of each finals week, a travel fund which supports graduate students who are presenting at conferences, and much more. We’re also excited to add to this list over the course of the year, and doing that requires bringing more people into the organization to support the work we’re doing.
From working to simplify the RSO funding process, getting more access to space on campus for groups to hold events, decreasing fundraising requirements for RSOs, and ultimately doing more to support students and student organizations, I’m excited about the work that we’re doing, and hope that you’ll join me in working to build this organization up. I ran for this position because I wanted to dramatically expand what we do and, from my experience, I believe that having these positions is one step down the road of building a better organization. I can always be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to talk.