IRA halts controversial bill

A vote on a controversial bill that would have given student money to elected student leaders has been postponed temporarily. On Wednesday, Feb. 11, the general body of the student-governed Inter-Residence Association (IRA) voted to postpone the IRA compensation resolution until after a scheduled revision of the IRA constitution. The bill would give $1,500 per semester to each of the seven members of the IRA Executive board. The funds would come from the IRA general fund, which is supported by a $15 fee paid by each UVM resident. While the wording of the bill said that compensation for IRA executives would draw more qualified and dedicated people to the job, opponents said that the compensation is an inappropriate use of student money. UVM Junior and Student Government Association (SGA) senator James ‘Jimmy’ Candon spoke against the newly proposed compensation at the IRA meeting on Wednesday. “I told President Just [of the IRA] last semester, ‘I don’t feel like the on-campus student body would approve of this use of money,'” he said during meeting. “Despite untrue excuses of misinformation, I say with confidence, I was right.” Bill creator Peter Cesiro said that he had heard both support and opposition to the bill. Cesiro is not a member of the IRA Executive board. “I’ve talked to some [SGA] senators who are in favor of it. Jimmy is obviously not,” Cesiro, the IRA Vice Chair of Student Advocacy, said. “Not all of SGA is volunteer, and SGA poses a fee just like IRA does.” While Cesiro said he heard some support, other representatives in the IRA said they had heard mostly opposition to the compensation bill, and that the opposition would affect how they voted. “I don’t vote how I personally feel,” IRA representative Ben Kitchen said. “And there isn’t a single person in my hall council who is for it.” “I talked to my hall council, and they were very much against it,” IRA representative Elizabeth Brashares said. “But I gave them more information, and they were much more supportive.” But still, supporters of the bill tried to remain hopeful about the bill’s future when it eventually comes to a vote. “As long as people are well informed, this is going to go well,” IRA representative Andreas Varsakop said. Still, the bill’s creator stressed his earlier message that residents need to be informed about the actual facts of the bill and IRA before they could fairly judge it. “You have to tell the student body what [the IRA] does,” Cesiro said. According to the Web site, the IRA aims to strengthen the interconnectedness between the residents and the greater UVM community by serving as advocates of the student voice. The IRA is a body meant to channel the voices of resident students to ResLife. “I think the best way to understand IRA is through our mission: To improve the quality of life on campus,” IRA President Bob Just said. “We tell Residential Life what students want, and work towards making positive change within the residential halls,” Just said. “Often times our voice is called on by outside departments and organizations.” However, some students, like Candon, who are aware of what the organization does, still oppose the compensation bill. “For an organization whose role it is to represent all on-campus residents, I found it hard to justify that this [executive compensation] was in the best interest of the students,” Candon said. “If this passes, we need to let the entire student body know,” IRA representative Brashares said. “In these financial times, the student body is incredibly suspicious in where their money goes.”But for now, representatives and students alike have a bit more time to get to know both IRA and the compensation proposal.The resolution should appear again after IRA’s constitution has been amended, which should happen sometime before the end of the semester, IRA co-advisor Wendy Schneider said.IRA E-BOARD COMPENSATONCurrently $475 a semester per memberProposed increase to $1,500 a semester per memberThe yearly IRA operating budget is $155,000$21,000 – or 10 percent – from the IRA budget would be used for the new compensation package