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Press Clipping: Should Student Government Leaders Be Paid?
This blog quoting ASGA's SG Salary Survey appeared in MrZach’s USG Blog - Taking It To The People

 

Should Student Government Leaders Be Paid?

There is a lot of confusion and misinformation swirling around about compensation for Undergraduate Student Government leaders. It does not help that one of the few sources of information, The Chicago Flame, presents only one side of the argument, and basically becomes the mouthpiece for one small faction of politically ambitious students.

Just a week ago, the same students who were once disqualified in last year’s elections (for election rules and University policy violations) used their temporary majority domination over your student government to vote down compensation for the work your Student Government Officers have done over the summer. Your President, Damian Wolak, who spent 20+ hours per week minimum this summer working as an advocate for students and rebuilding and leading this organization had his compensation voted down by the same political rivals who ran against him and lost to him in the election. This was done against the recommendations and glowing performance report from Dean Malcom Smith, Assistant Dean of Students and Advisor to USG.

Now, Damian Wolak can no longer afford to put gas in his car and is forced to make an hour and a half commute by bicycle and train because he chose to serve his fellow students rather than work a full-time summer job. His political rivals are in effect trying to force him to resign from USG as he slowly goes broke and into debt, but thankfully his mother has been willing to make extra sacrifices so that her son can continue to seek his degree while also serving students.

Certainly, eliminating compensation for elected leaders is very good for the politically ambitious and financially secure who want to use their positions in USG to pad their resumes and enjoy the power of controlling how your student fees are spent.

But is this good for you as students?

According to the National American Student Government Association (ASGA) more than 71% of schools (both 4-year and 2-year institutions) nationwide offer compensation to student governments. 87% of schools the same size as UIC or larger offer compensation. In fact, those schools often compensate their student government leaders with full tuition waivers, free room & board, and in some cases even a car and cell phone to conduct business. UIC only gives up to a paltry $3500 per year (based on performance), which means we already pay our leaders less than most community colleges.

There are very good reasons why so many schools offer such high compensation to students who are willing to serve in student government, reasons those who oppose compensation don’t want you to know. It isn’t because greedy students across the country are “lining their pockets with students money” as you will her the opposition say (how different, may I ask is that from padding you resume with positions of power?). It is because the level of trust and responsibility that students place in the individuals who represent them is so high, and requires such a great commitment, they don’t want their student government leaders to be open to the distractions and temptation of corruption that comes when someone is asked to work a demanding job for free.

(1) If student government leaders are expected to work 10-30+ hours per week on your behalf with no pay, then 90% of UIC students are automatically disqualified from being able to do the job.

Your government is supposed to be representative of the majority of students on this campus. Well, the majority of students on this campus are on financial aid, in student worker positions, and working to pay their way through college. The majority of students on this campus cannot commit the necessary time to serve in government without sacrificing their jobs and other activities. If only the rich can serve, your government will become an organization of elites - not public servants - who are just as likely to be motivated by personal ambition rather than a desire to truly serving students. Last year, a group of students formed a political party called Students for Better Government (SBG) and spent over $1200 in their quest to seize control of your student government. Sadly, they were all disqualified for numerous election and University policy violations (although a few members were later reinstated after attending mandatory ethics classes). Now, those same people who had the necessary money to dominate a political campaign are trying to squeeze the little guy out again by making it impossible for the working class students of UIC to even dream of serving in government.

(2) Civic servants in positions of power are most susceptible to corruption when they are not paid to do their jobs.

Living in Illinois, it is easy to think that all politicians are corrupt. Looking back on the Soviet-style electioneering tactics that got SBG disqualified from last year’s USG election, it is easy to see where it starts. However, it is an inescapable fact that people are going to be most loyal to those who provide for their basic needs. If your student government representatives are worried about making ends meet, paying their school bills, affording transportation and food, whatever means they come up with to provide for their needs will take priority in their lives. If it is an additional job, then they cannot fully devote themselves to serving the student body. If they must forgo an additional job, than they are either very rich and may have an ulterior motive for serving, or they are wide open to corruption and willing to sell out the student body for whomever offers to scratch their back. Do we really want to create an environment in our own student government that throws the door wide-open to special interest groups and businesses to influence your student leaders through promises and favors? This is what under-compensation does. In my time in the US Air Force I learned that our own military found that the best way to prevent good people from being bought out by the enemy was simply to make sure they were first financially secure. The same applies here. If you expect someone to represent you and to have the ability to do the best possible job they can, you should pay them to do the job. It is the morally right thing to do.

(3) Student government leaders are students workers just like us, all struggling to get by.

I am an RA, and my room and board is paid for, but I don’t have to work half as hard or have nearly the amount of responsibility that the President of USG has. I’m responsible for 60 students and report to my Resident Director. The USG President is responsible for 15,000 students and reports to the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. All students who work for the University get compensated for their service to the student body: from the President of the Resident Hall Association to the housing front desk workers, from the Student Patrol to library workers. If the University pays students to sit and do homework at a desk in the Montgomery Lounge Art Gallery and count how many people enter the gallery, shouldn’t we expect the University to pay those who spend their time advocating on our behalf, managing our student fees, and providing services to students to meet our needs?

If I was wealthy, there are all kinds of volunteer jobs I could afford to do for free, and I would happily do them. Unfortunately, that is a luxury I do not currently have. I have a limited income and a limited amount of time so I have to make tough decisions about what I can and cannot do. I know that most of you would be WILLING to serve students and be a student leader if you could afford to, so let me simply ask you this: Would you be ABLE to put in an extra 10-30 hours a week serving students for free and still be able to pay for school, keep up your grades, and maintain your sanity?

If the answer is no, then why should want to be represented by a student government comprised of students who are nothing like us? Why should we sit back and let the elites marginalize us?

Please contact your student government representatives and administration today and urge them to vote in favor of compensating our student government leaders. When is the last time any of your representatives asked you what you think anyway? Don’t let them misrepresent you. Tell them what you think! Fight the elites. End the corruption. Reward those who sacrifice so much on our behalf.

Contact everyone at once by clicking RIGHT HERE!

Barbara Henley, Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
bhenley@uic.edu

Linda Deanna, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Chancellor/Dean of Students
ldeanna@uic.edu

J. Malcolm Smith
Assistant Dean of Students
Advisor to USG - does not get a vote
jmalcolm@uic.edu

Damian Wolak
President of USG - does not get a vote
usgpresident@gmail.com

Kevin lee
Vice President of USG - does not get a vote
usgvicepresident@gmail.com

Roshina Khan - former Student Trustee Candidate, April 2009
Speaker of the Assembly - does not get a vote
usgspeaker@gmail.com

Joel Ebert - disqualified Student Trustee Candidate, April 2009
USG Assembly Member - voted NO to compensation
Co-Founder of SBG
Former Editor for The Chicago Flame
jebert3@uic.edu

Sara Agate - disqualified Assembly Candidate; reinstated May 2009
USG Assembly Member - voted NO to compensation
Member of SBG
sagate2@uic.edu

Bernadette Casaclang - disqualified Assembly Candidate; reinstated May 2009
USG Assembly Member - voted NO to compensation
Member of SBG
bcasac2@uic.edu

Heather Kaufman - disqualified Assembly Candidate; reinstated May 2009
USG Assembly Member - voted NO to compensation
Member of SBG
Former contributor to The Chicago Flame
hkaufm2@uic.edu

Cecilia Real - disqualified Assembly Candidate; reinstated May 2009
USG Assembly Member - voted NO to compensation
Member of SBG
creal2@uic.edu

Danielle Schubert - disqualified Assembly Candidate; reinstated May 2009
USG Assembly Member - voted NO to compensation
Member of SBG
dschub2@uic.edu

Geoff Berkheimer - SBG Assembly Candidate, April 2009
USG Assembly Member - voted NO to compensation
Member of SBG
Former contributor to The Chicago Flame
gberkh2@uic.edu

Megan Calcaterra - caught illegally campaigning for SBG, April 2009
USG Assembly Member - voted NO to compensation
Affiliate of SBG
mcalca2@uic.edu

Jake ‘Ohsofresh’ Johnson - participated in the SBG campaign, April 2009
USG Assembly Member - voted NO to compensation
jjohns82@uic.edu

Saad Jamil - USG Vice Presidential Candidate, April 2009
USG Assembly Member - voted YES to compensation
sjamil2@uic.edu

Vrushank Shah - returning member from 2008-09
USG Assembly Member - voted YES to compensation
vshahs2@uic.edu

Areazue Hosseini - returning member from 2008-09
USG Assembly Member - not present for vote
ahosse4@uic.edu

Alex Fernandez - returning member from 2008-09
USG Assembly Member - not present for vote
aferna7@uic.edu

Johnathan Hoekstra - new to USG
USG Assembly Member - not a member when vote occured
jhoeks5@uic.edu

Monika Karczmarczyk - new to USG
USG Assembly Member - not a member when vote occured
mkarcz2@uic.edu

Agnieszka Kirpa - new to USG
USG Assembly Member - not a member when vote occured
akirpa2@uic.edu

Steve Mower - new to USG
USG Assembly Member - not a member when vote occured
smower2@uic.edu

Alex Rogers - new to USG
USG Assembly Member - not a member when vote occured
aroger4@uic.edu

Davor Trnovljakovic - new to USG
USG Assembly Member - not a member when vote occured
dtrnov2@uic.edu

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