Compensation for students under review for next year

Throughout winter quarter, the Associated Students of Seattle Pacific Constitutional Review Committee has been researching whether or not student leaders are overpaid.

Ari Diamant, ASSP senator of the College of Science and Engineering and a CRC member, said the issue was officially brought up in the last CRC meeting by Kevin McFarland, who is in a paid position as ASSP executive vice president.

The CRC is currently developing a proposal that would reduce the allotted student payroll budget from 50 percent to 40 percent, which they hope to present to student senate by April 15. Their research of the ASSP Constitution is an annual process that is particularly thorough this year, McFarland said.

According to Bylaw Article III of the constitution, no more than 50 percent of the ASSP allocation may go to the student salary payroll each year. All service-compensated and hourly-compensated positions are included in that total.

Any proposal must be brought to senate by the fifth week of spring quarter so it can take effect the coming fall quarter, according to the constitution. Decisions regarding payroll allocation reductions would not affect 2008-2009 payroll positions.

Currently, the payroll allocation is $331,421 and lies at just under 49 percent of the total budget. To reduce the allocation by 10 percent would reallocate $67,000 of funds.

The payroll reduction would affect 63 salaried student leaders, including “ministry, STUB, all of the medias then officers. It’s a good amount of people,” said Anna Carlson, ASSP vice president of finance.

The reduction would also affect hourly positions, although these would not fall below minimum wage.

“By university standards, you can’t pay people under minimum wage, so it won’t fall below that mark,” Carlson said.

One way to reduce the payroll to below 50 percent of the budget is to reduce the number of paid positions, asking the people who are currently in paid positions if they would do it for less money, Diamant said. The hope is to make the budget cut without forcing people to go out and get another job.

“Hopefully the leaders are considering what it means to be a volunteer and taking the minimum amount possible to get by,” he said.

Carlson, who works a second job, said, “I think one thing to realize is that you can’t necessarily do these types of positions for the money, because you put in so many more hours than what you’re making anyway.”

Although she is not involved with the CRC, Carlson believes the payroll allocation reduction would be a benefit for next year’s ASSP budget.

“(A payroll reduction would) open up the amount that’s available to student clubs and organizations, so that’s always helpful,” she said. “I don’t see it as a huge problem because we haven’t ever hit that 50 percent mark yet. … But it’s going to give more money to student programs, which is always great.”

Diamant said lowering the maximum allotted amount to 40 percent is not based on any research but is just an idea.

“The number on the proposal is really there just to get the proposal to senate,” he said. “The CRC will do research and bring the number that they think is best back to senate when they want to get the proposal passed.”

Research includes comparing SPU’s policy to that of other universities, specifically “looking at schools that are comparable in size and mission,” Diamant said. Other factors include the cost of private tuition, the cost of living in the Seattle area and comparable wages.

At Northwest University in Kirkland, Wash., student leaders are provided with scholarships as compensation, so every student leader receives a certain percent off tuition based upon position, said Brooks Josephson, Northwest’s student government treasurer.

However, only 26 percent of the student body budget goes toward student leader scholarships.

“Our student body budget is currently $177,555, and student leader scholarships come out to $46,170 total,” Josephson said in an e-mail. “In one sense, it is a fixed amount, but it is also variable from year to year, depending on if the cost of tuition changes.”

McFarland said the decision to amend the constitution will not be made without input from student leaders.

“We plan to involve them,” he said, “A desire to meet with them has been expressed. … This will not be done without them.”

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Title: Compensation for students under review for next year | Author: Melissa Steffan (news writer) | Section: News | Published Date: 2009-02-25 | Internal ID: 5954