Senate debates extending $3000 in stipends to additional Senate officers

The TCU Senate is pictured during their weekly meeting on Oct. 16. (Max Lalanne / The Tufts Daily)

During the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate meeting on Oct. 10, an Allocations Board (ALBO) recommendation concerning the expansion of TCU-provided stipends was introduced for discussion. The ALBO recommendation proposed stipends for the Diversity and Community Affairs Officer, the Parliamentarian and the Historian of $1,000 per year each.

The proposal would be an extension of the current stipend system, under which each year the treasurer receives $3,000, the president receives $2,000, the vice president and associate treasurer each receive $1,000 and the webmaster receives $500.

TCU Senate President Gauri Seth introduced the request for stipend extensions to the TCU Senate. She said that the issue driving the stipend expansion proposal was one of accessibility.

“Personally, I think that there are a lot of barriers to accessibility on this campus,” Seth, a senior, said. “I think with Senate, if we want to truly be a representative body …  I think it’s really important to make this space accessible to people who cannot afford to put in 20 hours a week for Senate.”

Seth also mentioned her firsthand experience of managing work study and her Senate involvement.

“For anyone, I think, balancing a job on this campus and being in a student group [while] doing your work is really, really difficult,” she said. “And I just feel that if we want to truly fulfill our mission of being representative and accessible … I’m not saying this is the biggest solution, I’m not saying this is going to fix everything, but I think it’s a step.”

One discussion point was whether or not the stipend extensions should consider student financial need. As proposed, the stipend extensions do not consider financial need, and TCU Historian junior Rati Srinivasan said that there were several complications to evaluating need, including concerns about financial privacy.

Since the TCU Senate is the one funding this, we would be looking in each other’s financial situations, which kind of puts a lot of people in a slightly uncomfortable position,” she said.

TCU Senate LGBT Community Representative Parker Breza, a sophomore, disagreed with ignoring need, saying that it was an important consideration.

“I think it’s an important thing to keep in mind if we’re giving out stipends at all, especially if it’s money from the student activities fee, that it should be going to students who actually need it in order to do the activity,” Breza told the Daily in an email.

Breza also said that decisions about the value of student labor shouldn’t be made by the senate, and that the proposed stipends shouldn’t be drawn from the student activities fee.

“While I think it’s important that student labor is valued and compensated on this campus, and while I think that labor looks like a lot of things –– whether it’s Senate, the Observer, Tufts Funny LadiesStudents for Justice in Palestine or any culture group –– I don’t think that Senate is best able to decide what labor should and shouldn’t be valued monetarily, particularly for our own group,” Breza said. “I also think that student labor is completely undervalued on this campus, and that many people should receive stipends, but that money can’t be from the student activities fee, which is how Senate funds groups.”

Breza also argued that the stipend extensions would not increase accessibility, but would instead reflect a double standard perpetuated by Senate.

“These stipends are also not widely advertised, and so the very goal of the stipends (to try and make Senate more accessible) is not achieved. I don’t want to reinforce existing power dynamics that Senate is somehow ‘prestigious’ and therefore more deserving than other groups. I don’t think that Senate is more deserving than any other group on campus of being compensated,” Breza said. “I think there’s a huge double standard in that Senate thinks they are worthy of compensation, but openly admits that they wouldn’t provide a similar stipend should another student group request it.”

TCU Vice President Shai Slotky said that Senate was open to requests for funding.

Any organization can make the case for any request they’d like to make,” Slotky, a senior, said. “So they can absolutely put [requests for officer stipends] forward.”

Senator Daniel Kamlarz suggested that other positions should be considered for stipends to increase Senate accessibility.

You have community representatives that spend a lot of time talking to the Group of Six communities, and some of them were voicing concern both that they’re putting in a lot of time as well, and that if it’s a matter of accessibility,” Kamlarz, a junior, said. “If we want to get community representative positions — which are hard to fill — if we want to get them to get to be more accessible, then there should be a stipend for them.”

Following the Oct. 10 meeting, the ALBO recommendation concerning stipends was tabled.

According to Joe Golia, director of campus life, policies at other schools influenced the proposal.

A lot of times, when something like this comes up, you look around and see what else is doing it and who else is doing it,” Golia said. “I think the amounts we’re paying now are consistent with what other schools are doing … but I know [TCU Senate] want[s] to create different amounts.”

Of the 10 other NESCAC schools, four schools — Trinity College, Amherst College, Bowdoin College and Colby College — provide stipends to any positions in their student governments, according to Golia. Colby is the only NESCAC school to provide stipends to the entire executive board of their student government, and the other three schools provide an hourly monetary amount to one or two positions, usually as an incentive to fill unpopular positions.

Seth noted that the issue of stipend extensions was an ongoing conversation.

“I think what we also realize from that meeting is that we need to have a lot more conversations about what the system looks like, and we’ve started [to] talk about that within our committee structure,” Seth said.

Diversity and Community Affairs Officer Benya Kraus said that the proposal, regardless of the results, had introduced complicated discussions.

“Some of the things that came up was Senate accessibility and the value of labor and compensation of student labor, and this is a discussion that I think is important to have among students,” Kraus, a junior, said.