SU exec compensation needs more research, better plan

The amendment on executive compensation put forward in the Student Union spring elections became a viral issue on our campus this past Tuesday when students urged their peers to reject the amendment and condemned SU for proposing to pay their highest ranking officers.

In the span of 24 hours, a Student Union constitutional amendment became a pariah and was flatly rejected by the student body, something that has not happened often in the past four years.

In effect, the amendment wanted to pay the five SU Exec members 60 percent of the cost of a modern double as a way to eliminate the “large socio economic barrier” present for low-income students who need to spend extracurricular time completing work studies to support themselves. SU cited Congress of the South 40, residential advisers and First Year Center Exec as precedent in offering their own executive officers compensation for the significant amount of work they do.

At first glance, the major issue presented by this amendment is that all of the money paid out to SU Exec was planned to be drawn from the activities fund. To see roughly $30,000 of our own tuition disappear into the pockets of five students who also paid that fee seems like an odd solution to the problem posed by Student Union. That money has the ability to support a substantial amount of programming for the whole student body or student group funding, and we believe it is unfair to the undergraduate body to have that funding removed from the SU general budget.

Second, the Constitutional Amendments proposed for the election on March 7 were officially released by SU on March 5, just two days before the elections. Though that may be enough warning for most small amendments, a decision on compensation should be given more publicity among the student body, especially when it is their money at stake. We have no evidence that this amendment was discussed at the length that it deserves, and believe that SU should have better prepared for this amendment to be on the ballot.

Further, the precedents cited by Student Union are all problematic in some form. Though CS40 Executive members do similar work on campus, they are required to live on the South 40 and are employed by the Office of Residential Life (and given a discount on housing, not a stipend). SU Exec is not employed by an administrative organization on campus, and we do not believe that they should have cited CS40 without further detailing why that stipend was initially created (or why it still exists today). First Year Center Executive Officers and RAs are also employed through ResLife, and RAs have an especially unique job on campus that requires them to be frequently on-call and prepared to deal with incredibly intense issues.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, SU did not conduct a thorough investigation on the barriers that exist for low-income students to serve in official capacities on the executive board. This problem, while logical and obvious at first glance, deserves greater research and investigation by relevant organizations and internal SU committees, like the Diversity Affairs Council. While a financial barrier may very well exist, we have no reason to believe that SU formed this amendment based on in-depth conversations with the students they claim will be most affected by the proposal.

The editorial board of Student Life applauds the student body for voting against this amendment, especially on the grounds that it was rushed to ballot without proper vetting or campus-wide dialogue. The issue of compensation for important officers across the Wash. U. campus, including SU Exec, is certainly not finished. In the future, we urge SU to be more careful in their approach of this issue and more open with the student body before such an important amendment is put forward on the ballot.