The Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) approved a measure April 12 that provides each senator an $800 stipend beginning in the 2013-2014 year. Some of the senators argued that the stipends would increase the accountability of student representatives since the money comes from student fees, while others thought the positions did not merit that level of pay.
Currently the president receives a stipend of $1,500 while the Vice President of Finance and Vice President of Campus Events receive $1,000, but no other senators or commissioners receive compensation for their service in Senate.
This vote was the culmination of many deliberations on the topic that began during the last academic year. According to Vice President of Finance Faye Wang PO ’13, the stipend money will come from the Metate fund because it is no longer an organization. Wang said that there is debt to the ASPC’s reserve fund that must be repaid due to the Metate, so the approximately $16,000 Metate allocation will continue for the next two years, and just some of that money will go to pay senators in the upcoming year.
For many senators, providing stipends is a way to offset the potential difficulties that hours spent with ASPC pose to holding a work-study job.
“Senators do, as a part of their jobs, benefit students, and I think that’s a valuable use of student fees,” Wang said.
“The fact that I’m actually paid for my position means that I actually have more time to spend on being VP for Finance,” she said.
Conversations in Senate debated not only whether to provide senators with stipends from student fees but also how much money they should receive.
“I saw 800 off the bat to be a large number for the first time, although I think it’s an appropriate number when you look at the formula,” said Vice President for Campus Events Joseph Reynolds PO ’15.
The subcommittee that focused on the question of stipends for senators determined the $800 based off 2.5 hours of work a week at $8 an hour, the on-campus minimum wage. This allows for the 1.5-hour weekly meeting of the entire Senate along with an average of one hour of work for the senator’s position outside of the meeting.
“I could see the reasoning behind that [decision], because [the senators] are providing a service to the school,” Madeleine McClintic PO ’16 said.
Although the stipend cannot necessarily replace a work study job in financial benefit, current senators hope that the stipend will encourage more students to participate in ASPC—particularly low-income students who may need to prioritize paying jobs over volunteer positions.
“We’re working in this place where we’re trying to figure out what can help marginalized students be more active in these very valuable roles in the Pomona College community,” Reynolds said.
The decision did not pass unanimously in Senate. Commissioner of Clubs and Sports Emma Wolfarth PO ’14 voted against the idea and was the primary voice of opposition to the measure.
“I think that the way that Senate functions as of right now, how much it gets done, how much it requires of senators, and it as a governing body, that it does not merit using any of student fees to pay the senators,” she said.
Stephanie Njau PO ’14 agreed.
“They should be channeling the funding toward student organizations, not students,” she said. “That’s why we pay student fees.”
In addition, Wolfarth addressed the nature of ASPC, which she described as a “popularity contest.”
“I think you really change the structure of the Senate if you make it a paid position,” she said.
Many senators thought the stipends would increase accountability in the future for the student senators because their paychecks will come from their constituents’ pockets.
“I do think there needs to be more accountability in Senate, and I do think there needs to be checks and balances so that senators are showing up to meetings and whatnot,” Reynolds said.
“I think it will just be having student fees go toward paying a bunch of people—some of which maybe deserve a stipend and a bunch of which who don’t,” Wolfarth said.
According to Wolfarth, Senate was not in full attendance during the vote, a common occurrence at ASPC meetings.
“I don’t see why anyone in that room [should have decided about stipends], especially considering that we haven’t been able to vote on pretty much anything successfully, nor are we really ever actually representing the constituents’ opinions,” she said. “I really don’t think that we should have been allowed to vote on it ourselves.”
Wolfarth suggested that the student body as a whole should have voted on the issue during the ASPC elections two weeks ago.
“It just really hits me on an ethical level,” she said. “I think the stipends are going to have a lot of unintended consequences that we didn’t think through.”