Debate continues over student compensation

Along with funding teachers’ salaries, custodial work and student-run clubs, a portion of what every student pays each semester goes back into the pockets of elected student officials.

While the officials do a significant amount of work, some students feel that their jobs should instead be done on a volunteer basis.

“I just don’t feel like it’s right,” UVM freshman Francesca Minervini said. “First of all, should we even consider these positions as ‘jobs’? And second, why is it our responsibility to pay them?”

Over the past year, the Inter-Residence Association (IRA) has been attempting to raise the compensation amount each member of the IRA Executive Board receives.

The current IRA compensation is $950 per year, which many IRA members have said they feel isn’t satisfactory.

“The compensation package at $475 a semester that is offered to the executive board really isn’t substantial to even purchase a semester’s worth of books,” compensation proposal writer Peter Cesiro said.

According to the first compensation proposal, IRA Executive Board Members would be supplied a bed waiver for the maximum room rate for a traditional double at $5,752 a year.

According to the second compensation proposal, a $3,000 per year compensation package would be supplied for all IRA Executive Board Members.

Both proposals have not passed in the IRA General Body vote.

IRA’s proposals for a higher compensation package have opened debate among UVM students as to why students’ tuition was being used to directly pay student salaries.

Currently there are two organizations that are allowed to have a direct fee in student tuition: The Inter-Residence Association (IRA), and the Student Government Association (SGA).

As of today, the seven members of the IRA Executive Board all receive a $475 per semester stipend.

“I’m not exactly sure when the compensation came into effect; however it has been in effect for at least the past 3 years,” IRA Treasurer Amy Johnson said.

The justification behind the current compensation is that Executive Board members are required to hold 3-5 office hours per week, as well as attend a minimum of 4 hours of meetings per week over the entire semester, which is about 18 weeks, Johnson said.

“This is the minimum amount of time spent weekly by an IRA executive officer, and many in fact put in more hours meeting with professionals and student leaders across campus,” Johnson said.

The SGA also receives student salaries directly from tuition. As of today, the three executive members of the SGA receive a $200 per week stipend, and the seven committee chairs receive a $65 per week stipend.

“For me, this works out to be less than $5 per hour compensation. I’m serious, and it is likely similarly small amounts for Jay and Emma too,” Porter said.

For the past five years that he’s been on Senate, the SGA salaries have remained the same and haven’t been discussed, Porter said.

“The fact that the funding of executive positions comes from student fees is not lost on the executive board,” Porter said. “We have been diligent in holding the executive committee to a high standard of productivity.”

“We have frequently withheld payment for those chairs deemed to have not fulfilled their role for the week,” Porter said.

It was determined that if there was not some sort of reasonable pay for the work, the only students who could hold the positions were the ones with the resources (wealth) to be able to not work, Director of Student Life Patrick Brown said.

“I guess the overall question remains, is this an ethical decision on the school’s part,” Minervini said. “Although, I guess the only change that would be made is the so called “fees” would disappear and become general tuition; so either way, we’re paying for it.”

IRA will be reattempting to vote on the $3,000 per year compensation at the next IRA meeting, March 18.