The Student Government Association (SGA) approved an overall decrease to a new pay scale stipend on Thursday, Feb. 6., but that decrease won’t affect the executive cabinet, who will each see minor raises in pay.
The vice president for financial affairs, Hunter Scott, and SGA treasurer Emma Thomas are the authors of the SGA 2020 stipend. This new stipend is the most researched and up-to-date.
Looking back at the old pay scale change from 2019, the authors noted that the future SGA president would receive $4,200 instead of the previous $3,540 from 2019. The pay increase was intended to balance out work and personal life, the authors said, as the president and the executive council have to complete a minimum of 12 office hours a week.
“My average is 16 to 20 [hours],” SGA president Harrison Adams said.
As president, Adams said he has to drive to Birmingham, Montgomery and other locations and does not get compensated for gas and other expenses.
“We as people that are working in SGA know that when you work there, you usually have to spend more time there than the office hour requirement,” said Jackson Fuentes, SGA press secretary.
Scott and Thomas compared the financial compensations to other schools around the SEC and Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). The SGA president for Florida State University receives $10,700 annually. The SGA president for the University of Florida receives $10,361, as recorded in 2018. In comparison, the SGA president for the University of South Carolina receives a $5,000 salary aside from a parking pass, four tickets to home games and a weekly $40 meal ticket.
Proponents of the UA pay scale argued that SGA vice presidents are due for an increase in salary, and they will now receive $3,000 rather than the $2,880 allotted in the 2019 stipend.
However, not all positions received a raise. The new pay for the future chief justice will be $1,920 rather than the previous $2,220 due to lower minimum requirements. As part of the judicial board, the chief justice has to only complete three office hours.
Current chief justice Clayton Lawing noted that being elected was simple, as there is no real campaign and they get elected by the previous judicial board. However, he also noted that the minimum requirements don’t reflect the work he puts in throughout the year.
“Traditionally, the chief justice completes a lot more hours due to the nature of Tide Loyalty and other appeals,” Lawing said.
The speaker of the Senate also received a decrease in salary from 2019, from $1,530 to $1,440.
“The chief justice and the speaker of the Senate both went down [in pay] and that’s simply because they’re both branch leaders,” Fuentes said. “We want that deduction to be reflected equally between branches. We don’t want any branch to feel left out.”
HISTORY OF THE PAY SCALE
SGA officials started receiving salaries in the late 1980s, but the pay scale continued to be a topic of debate, as some have argued about the implications of paying student politicians.
There are two sides to the persisting argument: Some believe SGA is volunteer work and salary money should go to other causes, while others argue that compensating SGA officials will make them more productive.
A 2011 change to the pay scale outlined that the SGA chief of staff would receive $125 per month for seven months and the SGA director of communications would receive $50 per month for four months. The SGA Student Senate established a temporary pay scale of $17,325 for the remainder of the 2011-2012 academic year.
According to CW news coverage of the meeting, the act did not pass without negation.
“I believe that the SGA should not be funded with salaries because other student organizations aren’t,” Sen. Lauren Hardison said in a 2011 article.
In 2018, an act added to a docket minutes before a Senate meeting sought to increase the total stipend.
“When I saw that they would give $12,500 to people who signed up to volunteer to do a service for their community, that they would be getting compensated for this, I don’t really agree with that,” Sen. Aaron Hurd said in a CW interview in 2018.
In 2019, VPFA candidate John Martin Weed ran on a platform to redress the pay scale, make it more transparent and reassess the overall budget.
“I’m not saying the students aren’t deserving of some form of compensation, because they do dedicate a significant amount of time for servant leadership, but I think we need to reassess the impact these funds could be having,” Weed told The Crimson White in an interview last March. “Imagine $5,000 was given to [a] student organization that exemplified excellence in pursuit of increasing their efforts. I think the magnitude of that change could be a little bit greater than the compensation that we’re giving to the students.”
The vote to approve this year’s pay scale was unanimous, excluding Sen. Jack Kappelman, who remained silent during the process.
“I chose not to vote on it,” Kappelman said after the meeting. “I no longer feel comfortable asking questions here, so I’m just letting it pass. I’m voting on things that I want to see done.”
Kappelman noted that the pay scale was just one of several concerns he had about the SGA budget, some of which he brought up last semester.
“Why are we paying students where we could provide funds to other areas of campus that are more necessary?” he said. “Why is the SGA paying for the awards banquet? Why are they paid salaries when they could in fact be going toward need-based scholarships?”
Though Kappelman, who was vocally opposed to pay scale increases in the past, chose not to vote on this year’s act, he felt that the SGA should address these lingering questions, as well as others more specific to the most recent legislation.
“I appreciate that Hunter put in a lot more effort this time around in the pay scale and making it more transparent,” he said. “I think the question does remain, like why are certain branch heads being paid less? It’s not just chief justice. The speaker of the Senate is not being paid at the same level as a VP. I just don’t really understand that.”
Fuentes noted that, for students who might not be able to afford to work extra hours, a pay scale was necessary.
“It is really important that we keep [the pay scale] so everyone can serve – so student government is not limited to those who would be able to serve if they weren’t paid,” Fuentes said. “That’s something that is really important to us in SGA because we serve all students, as opposed to some students.”
To view the original presentation on this year’s pay scale, click here.
An amendment to consolidate the executive cabinet, authored by Adams, also passed, as well as an amendment to change representation requirements of SGA’s First Year Council.
Click here to view the full docket.
The SGA Senate holds public meetings every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the Ferguson Center Forum Room.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the SGA approved an overall increase in stipends. The article has been corrected to reflect a decrease in stipends.