Nearly half of Student Government Association budget goes to officers
Student government executive board divides $25,000 in yearly stipends.
|Student Government Association executive board members at Bakersfield College are spending nearly half of their budget on themselves.|
In their 2004-2005 budget, it shows $25,000 being allocated for the stipends, which are salaries for executive board members. That is 44 percent of SGA's budget, which is totaled at $56,500. The student government has $2,000 allocated for Spring Fling and Homecoming combined. Carla Reyes, department assistant, said that every executive officer receives stipends except Prayas Patel, the vice president, who chose not to receive the stipend.
The president, Jason Ellertson, receives approximately $405 per month. The other five officers, Raul Jimenez, secretary; Ryan Busby, treasurer; Kikue Hagishadi, activity liaison; David Stenson, legislative liaison; and Ryan Schutt, general counsel, all receive approximately $324 per month. Ellertson replaced Joseph Ruiz, who resigned as president and cited division among board members.
Reyes said that officers have to put in 12 hours per week, except for the president, who is required to work 15 hours per week.
"The stipends allow the quality people to be here working for the students, rather than seeking that income elsewhere," Ellertson said.
California State University, Bakersfield, a four-year college that has a total student government budget of $573,332, also gives out stipends. However, CSUB's total stipends are $22,000, which is about 4 percent of its total budget.
Student government officers at Porterville College and Cerro Coso Community College, the other two colleges in the Kern Community College District, do not receive any stipends. Ann Fryslie, Santa Barbara City College student government adviser, said in a telephone interview that currently Santa Barbara student government officers receive no stipends.
Josey Arellano, San Diego City College student government treasurer, said in a telephone interview that their officers do receive stipends. Their president receives $200 a month. Arellano said that 13 percent of their budget is allocated for stipends. Last year at BC, there was $17,000 allocated for stipends. SGA members last year voted unanimously 7-0 to give themselves a raise.
Don Turney, dean of students and SGA adviser, said that "for the time they (executive board officers) put in, students are getting a huge bang for their buck out of these guys because they work so hard."
When Turney was asked if he thought it was proper procedure to have stipends in a time when budgets are being cut, he said, "Absolutely, because they represent the students. The students elected them. It's written into the constitution. They're paid minimum wage, but they all put in far more than their 12 hours, 15 hours a week."
Ellertson said that he agreed with Turney's, "students are getting a huge bang for their buck" comment.
"We are only provided stipends based on minimum wage. We don't get paid any more money for the hours over that we work a week and in all honesty, between meetings off campus, meetings on campus, we put in more than 20 hours a week."
Ellertson said that $25,000 is the "yearly estimate" and that "if you break it down by seven people over the entire year it is going to be less than minimum wage per hour that's worked."
"Stipends are important. The cost of education is dramatically increasing. Students are unable to attend even at a community college level, without having some source of income, a second job," he said.
All but two of several BC students interviewed do not think SGA members should be getting stipends. They said it should be volunteer work.
"To be putting money in their own pockets, it's just not right," said Jesus Valenzuela, 27, a human services major. "I don't think that's fair."
William Washington, 22, said "They can say what they're going to do, but I don't trust them."
"What's the point of going to college? You can just run for student government. It's taking the whole incentive away. So, I don't think they should (get stipends). This is something voluntary. It's like going for a club," said Christopher Anfoso, a biology major.
Two students said that the money should be going back to the college itself.
Megan Songer, 24, a psychology major, also said that it should be on a voluntary basis.
"If they want to help the school, they should volunteer so the funds could be used for the school," she said.
"I think they should do it because they want to, not 'cause they're getting paid and maybe the extra money that they use to pay (themselves) could be used toward benefiting the school ... and not just the leaders," said Amy Menefee, 18, undeclared.
Cheryl Davis, 20, undeclared, said she does not think SGA officers should receive stipends because "it's not like a real job."
A minority of students interviewed said that they should receive the stipends.
"Yeah, they do work. Well, it depends on how much work they do. If they do a lot of work, they should be compensated for it," said Joseph Sandoval, 25, liberal arts.
"Yeah, sure. They're doing a job," said Michelle Hernandez, 20, sign language.
Ellertson said that SGA is working for the students at BC. "The first thing that will really affect the students here at Bakersfield College is the revamping of the Student Center," he said.
"We are taking bids right now to develop a canopy system, one that will provide shade and a nice atmosphere for students to congregate out there, which they already do."
He said that there are other items that SGA is working on.
"The other items that we are doing behind the scenes, which students don't really see and some don't really care about, and that is being involved in all the campus wide committees," he said.
According to the section about BC's SGA on the American Student Government Association Web site, www.asgaonline.com, some of their accomplishments have been making student government office improvements, joining state affiliations and associations, and hosting a successful retreat.
One of their main goals listed is amending their constitution, which has already happened.
History professor David Rosales, dean of students in the late '70s and early '80s and student government adviser, started giving student government officers stipends back then.
"The idea of stipends was a way to get commitment out of students," he said.
He said that nearly half their budget then wasn't devoted to stipends. "If my memory serves me correctly, it was just a portion of our budget at the time."
"I think the student body president in those days received $50 or $55 a week," Rosales said.
The other two officers received $25 a week."