The Burnout Politics of Student Labor

Student governments may not always think kindly of TSL. That’s totally understandable; we annoy them all the time.

We harass them for quotes and press access to events. We email and Facebook message them incessantly for clarifications. But at the end of the day, when we correct any misattributed quotes and clarify any confusing statements on our end, we do so with respect. Though we can often be rightfully put at odds with our student representatives, we still admire and relate to the incredible amount of work they do.

Student legislators and student journalists are not at all that different. We both work long hours for little to no pay, while balancing academics and other jobs. We both have high aspirations for the nobility of our profession, and struggle each day to reach them.

We are both constantly (and happily) taking flak from the community for the work that we do. And we both get very, very tired, and burn out whether we want to or not. As is the nature of government and journalism, and which is amplified in an academic setting, we quite easily overwork ourselves.

Recent events in our student governments have made us ponder this more recently. As we reported a few weeks back, ASPC spent almost all of their labor budget in the first half of the semester. Though it’s easy to read this as a case of them overspending or mismanagement, it also raises the question of how equitably these representatives are compensated for their labor, and how reasonable are their responsibilities.

As detailed in our Senate Briefs, the Pitzer College Student Senate’s Interim Treasurer, Jacquelyn Aguilera PZ ’19, recently announced her resignation. Neither she nor any of the Pitzer executive board are compensated at all for their labor, which points to inequalities in the compensation and overall accessibility of student governments participation across the 5Cs.

Additionally, Aguilera’s service was already the result of her predecessor’s resignation, which makes us concerned about the sustainability of student government positions, particularly executive ones. We are allowing too much to fall upon too few elected representatives, who too need to balance academic coursework, and are too often burnt out by the end of the semester. This is a time when we must advocate for our own advocates.