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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Student senators earn their stipends

Do you think ASUA senators make too much money? For some students, the $1,200 stipend each senator receives — totaling $12,000 for the student-elected group — sounds like too much and might even be a surprise to the folks that weren’t aware they are paid at all.

The senators are expected to hold weekly office hours in the ASUA offices, attend general senate meetings and work with different committees to represent the voices and concerns of their constituents.

In all, the senators are expected to fulfill 15 hours a week of duties in the service of the UA’s student body, all for a measly $1,200. This stipend, already low, should not be further reduced. Yet, for three consecutive years, just that has happened.

A senator who works the mandated 15 hours per week for a full 16 weeks is being paid a wage drastically below the state’s minimum wage. This stipend also doesn’t factor in senator expenses, such as business formal attire required for most meetings and the cost of running a campaign to be elected. According to Sen. Joe Zanoni, his re-election campaign cost about $170. For Sen. Jack Emery, the cost was about $150.

Furthermore, the job of ASUA senator prevents students from supplementing their income by taking most other on-campus jobs. Positions at the Daily Wildcat, for example, are off-limits to ASUA employees.

I have the privilege of earning Arizona’s minimum wage as a student employee on campus. If I work the minimum amount of hours I am scheduled, I would make more money in 12 weeks than the senators make in the entire semester, and I don’t even have to wear a suit. I also didn’t have to pay about 20 hours of work simply to get either job.

From lavish taxpayer-funded vacations, private flights, car services and free dry cleaning, the general complaints of misappropriation of public funds attributed to state and federal level government officials do not extend to ASUA senators. The perks of the senate position — good glamor shots and a solid resume line — are met with a disproportional amount of work and irritation.

It is important to acknowledge that some students need either a stipend or a reasonable wage to simply be able to attend college. Paying ASUA senators less than the minimum wage and preventing them from holding another job effectively prevents some students from running and ensures that our senate is not economically representative of the student body. The fact that the senate stipend is, at present, not entirely sustainable for student-workers presents a barrier to less financially stable students from representing their voice in ASUA.

Executive Vice President Elect Evan Hastings opposes another reduction in the ASUA Senate stipends for the upcoming academic year.

“The idea behind senate stipends is less to compensate them for their work,” he said, “and more to give these jobs more accessibility to the student body. Say there is a student that needs to work in order to go to school at the UA; stipends can make up for the time commitment. In addition, senate wages have been on the decline over the past several years, and in general, I support a system that continually grows access to more students by increasing the wage at a reasonable pace.” 

For the upcoming academic year, at its April 8 meeting, ASUA determined that the stipend would remain the same — which can only be a good thing. Senators are, after all, student employees. Even though their positions come with a bit more power than the average campus job, their involvement is an invaluable resource that should not be compromised simply to tighten a budget.

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Nick Havey is a junior studying physiology and Spanish. Follow him on Twitter.

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