On April 8, the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate will hear “A Resolution Calling on Tufts to Compensate Student Leaders.” The proposal aims to make student leadership roles more accessible to all students by expanding the scope of the current stipend system. While making leadership roles themselves more accessible is something to be celebrated, TCU senators should not make this decision. As senators are likely to profit from a leadership payment structure, it is important that they are not the only voice at the table making decisions on this important issue.
The purpose of TCU Senate is to justly represent the student body. In the instance of this bill, there is no way TCU Senate can accurately represent its constituency. That’s because the resolution, according to the Daily, “will also propose a universal stipend for all TCU-elected students.” This is likely to influence TCU Senators in favor of the resolution. More likely than not, the result of the TCU Senate vote will be overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution, even though that may not correlate to the sentiments of the student body.
The extraordinary cost of this measure requires more than a handful of students’ votes. If the university is planning to spend thousands of dollars on student leaders, a student referendum would be needed. As Pedro Andre Lazo Rivera, a former Class of 2020 Senator and president of the Tufts Russian and Slavic Student Association, said, “We don’t want TCU Senate to be deciding how to pay itself.”
There are clearly benefits to a resolution like this. As the abstract notes, “taking on leadership roles is time consuming and often demands as many hours as a part time job.” Introducing a stipend system is a way to increase socioeconomic diversity of student leaders on campus and remove financial barriers to student leadership.
But there are plenty of cons to the resolution as well, which may be overlooked by TCU Senate due to their conflict of interest. Logistically, the resolution raises many important questions about a stipend system — how much money would be allocated, where it would come from, who decides who gets it and what qualifies one to receive it. Another worrisome aspect is that compensating all student leaders could potentially lead to corruption of the current system. Students participate in leadership roles because they are passionate about their club or organization. Compensation could lead to student activity based solely on what positions are paid.
This resolution sparks an important dialogue around socioeconomic diversity in student leadership, and definitely deserves further investigation and consideration. However, due to the potential monetary benefit for senators, TCU Senate should not decide on this alone.
Although the Leadership Town Hall is an important step in opening up this debate to the rest of the campus community, the resolution should be brought before the entire student body, preferably through a referendum. The resolution would probably have a positive effect on the diversity of student leadership at Tufts. However, TCU Senate would be irresponsible to ignore nuanced, diverse and unbiased opinions on this issue.