Student Execs Defend Pay

Clarification: Ebony Azumah’s paid position at the Intercultural Center is not affected by the current CSO pay debate. Her compensation funding comes from a different fund outside of the Student Activity Fee.

The Sept. 20 issue of the Foghorn reported that ASUSF Senate is considering cutting compensation for Chartered Student Organizations (CSOs) in order to not dip into their reserve budget for the second year in a row. They would also like to see non-compensated clubs receiving more funding opportunities, since 37 percent of the Senate budget goes towards CSO pay. Two organizations — Fog Squad and Greek Council — have already opted to remove pay for their executive board members.

However, the idea of cutting compensation is not popular among many CSO executives, who have pointed to the considerable amount of time that must be dedicated to their positions, among other concerns.

In response to the news story, four CSO executives from the Foghorn, USFtv, Culturally Focused Clubs Council (CFCC) and Intercultural Centers offered their opinions on eliminating compensation.

In addition, the Foghorn reached out to Senate President Sage Hapke and Senate Vice President of Finance Marcus Aguilar, who had both positioned themselves as being in favor of cutting compensation in the Sept. 20 article. Since publication, Hapke has decided to publicly speak out against removing pay. They are among the voices we have included in this section. Aguilar did not respond to multiple requests to elaborate on his stance.


Katherine Na is the copy editor at the Foghorn.

Courtesy of Katherine Na

“[Fog Squad and Greek Council] wanted people who are passionate about their work and not just in it for the money. I think that’s good enough reasoning to cut compensation,” Senate Vice President of Finance Marcus Aguilar said in a Sept. 20 Foghorn news story about potential pay cuts for CSOs.

He says that one of his reasons for wanting to cut compensation is that, with no incentive of payment, the only students who would sign up for these particular positions would be those purely passionate about their work.  

I work four paid jobs including my position at the Foghorn. These cuts would force me to quit working on the paper you’re reading.

Performing hours of work without pay due to being “passionate” is unrealistic for many students — to the point where this statement is classist. I love the Foghorn, and through my work for the paper, I’ve cultivated a deep love for the University and our vibrant student body. It’s through this work that I’ve found some of my best friends and created a home on the UC 4th floor. But no matter how passionate I am about the work I do, I wouldn’t be able to commit hours of work to the Foghorn every week if I wasn’t getting paid. I would have to seek out yet another paid position to support my ability to pay rent and buy groceries — and dozens of student leaders from other organizations would be in the same boat.

Student workers deserve to be paid for the work they do, from Campus Activities Board planning Donaroo to the Culturally Focused Clubs Council providing support for USF’s cultural organizations. It’s deeply unsettling to think that, when faced with overspending, Senate’s first instinct is not to re-evaluate the overall budget and see what sustainable changes can be made, but to cut the compensation of already-struggling students.

By cutting student leaders’ compensation, we risk eliminating low-income students from positions in CSOs and turning UC 4th into a place where the only people who work are those who can work for free.

Senate has a standing commitment to “reflect the diversity of our campus in every action we carry forward,” as expressed in its values statement — this must encompass socioeconomic diversity, too. In order to stay true to these values, it’s critical that we continue to pay students for the hard work they do for the University’s community.


Alaina Arroyo is the president of the CFCC.

Vincent Balgemino / SLE

My ultimate concern is that removing student pay will then skew who serves as leaders on our campus and what experiences they bring to the job. With compensation cuts, only students who don’t have to rely on pay will be able participate in these organizations. This will mean that only those who are wealthy will be in executive positions for the organizations that serve and provide resources to the student body.

CFCC is a resource for the cultural organizations on campus such as Latinas Unidas, the Black Student Union, PRISM, the Pacific Islander Collective, Kasamahan, MEChA, the Native American Collective and French Club. As a council, we work together to promote collaboration to create a strong alliance to support the cultural clubs with any goals that we have with the University. It is imperative that student leaders of the CFCC executive board reflect the values of the council and practice critical thinking in evaluating the institution and the systems that impact the most vulnerable communities within it, rather than having an entire executive team with privileged backgrounds be in charge.

Removing student pay for executives may also impact retention. As we all know, the more tuition increases, the harder it becomes for students to stay at the University. If compensation is removed, then students will seek jobs elsewhere, which will prevent student involvement on campus. There are many CSO executives who are already working two or three jobs to cover the cost of tuition and housing in our city. Removing compensation may very well push these students away from the University.

The amount of labor that students perform to provide resources for their fellow peers on campus is something worth being paid for. San Francisco is one of the the most expensive cities in the country, and the University is not getting any cheaper. USF is fervent in communicating its mission and vision statement to promote and encourage social justice values and to “change the world from here.” How can students “change the world from here” when Senate wants to prevent many from participating in organizations that aim to do just that?


Sage Hapke is the president of ASUSF Senate.

Vincent Balgemino/SLE

Former ASUSF Senate President Reyna Brown made an executive order last spring that has current Senate executives debating whether the remaining eight CSOs who have not already given up pay should receive hourly compensation through the approximately $1 million student activity fee budget. When I entered my role as president this year, I was sure that we, as CSOs, would be able to come to a resolution.

However, from the conversations I’ve been having with the other CSO executives, there is too much at stake if we as student leaders decide to remove our compensation.

This would potentially lead to only students who have the economic advantage to work for free applying for executive positions, which would de-diversify all of the work and progress we as individual organizations have achieved throughout the years.

The difficulty of this subject lies in the need to balance financials with individual needs. Among the CSOs, it is common knowledge that many of us belong to marginalized groups who, especially outside of USF, face potential discrimination practices based upon our gender, race, age, sexuality, religion, ability status or national origin. Being someone who holds various intersecting identities, I completely agree that students need to, and deserve to, be paid for the work they do for our community.

With the already high cost of rent increasing along with other financial insecurities, there is no way I could successfully hold my role as president without being paid. At the same time, the CSOs do receive a large chunk of the student activity fee for their hourly compensation — at the cost of other Green and Gold student organizations’ resources. These other student organizations only receive roughly 12 percent of the budget, which, in my opinion, is not appropriate based on what the fee is meant for. Thus, we are looking at solutions and how to balance this all.


Ebony Azumah is the president of Black Student Union and an intern at the Intercultural Center.

Courtesy of Ebony Azumah

As a student who is passionate about the positions I hold, I know there is an integral need for the work that student leaders do on this campus.

These student leaders deserve to be paid for their work.

Without student leaders, many organizations, programs and events that make up student life would cease to exist. We create spaces for expression, families of students to build our community and spaces to develop as a professional. Furthermore, the diversity of experience and background that students bring to their work is what allows us to maintain and uplift our commitment to diversity, inclusion and social justice.

Most importantly, we create the culture that is the USF we all know and love.

When we consider compensation for students, we must acknowledge that we are at a private institution in the one of the nation’s most expensive cities. Both the housing and homelessness crises do not stop at USF’s doors. It affects students, especially when we have to figure out where we live, our tuition and the unexpected –– all on a tight student budget. When you consider this, it is quite amazing to think of all the students who answer the call to be leaders. It is a labor of love, and it is something that we do because we would rather make the sacrifice than see what we have created cease to exist.

I see it as valiant that some students are willing to give up compensation in order to allow more funds to go toward other student programming. But students are in the last position to afford zero compensation.

For many students, compensation is all that allows them to serve in leadership positions. The hours we work here could be done elsewhere. And who is to say that all of us can afford to do this work for free? How will this determine who gets to serve on Senate? Who will get to serve in the Cultural Centers? Compensation allows for marginalized, low-income students to be able to serve the communities that they are a part of.

If we decide now that students do not need compensation, it will have a residual effect on future generations of student leaders.


Caleb d’Oleire is a narrative producer at USFtv

Courtesy of Caleb D’Oleire

I am one of the many leaders of a student organization that, without compensation, would not be able to contribute to creating outlets for student expression.

Working at USFtv has granted me the opportunity to work with a team of content creators to produce sketches and short films each week. Through this job, I’m able to practice working in the field I intend on joining professionally after I leave campus –– this is a common goal among other CSO executives, too. I treat this job like a paid internship, as part of my career plans. By working at USFtv, I’m gaining the most valuable asset in any industry: experience.

I could gain experience elsewhere, but I find it much more gratifying to be working with students, for students. I take pride in USF, and I work hard in creating the best content possible for us.

However, as a financially independent college student, there is no way I could contribute to USFtv without compensation.

Cutting pay would change USFtv as a whole. I fear that someone who might be privileged enough to do my job for free may not be as passionate as I am and therefore would compromise the quality of the content. I also worry that cutting compensation might exclude those like me who are passionate but don’t have the time or disposable income to participate without a paycheck.

USF prides itself on diversity, and cutting compensation would be cutting diversity from executive leadership positions.


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