Note from the Editor: The Foghorn recognizes that it has a stake in the issue reported. We have attempted to remove bias by having an unpaid news deputy report on this story. Paid editors contributed minimally to the content of the story. A previous version of this article mistakenly said the student activity is $113 annually. It is $113 per semester.
The Graphics Center designs the posters that adorn the hallways and staircases. College Players offer an outlet for creative students to perform for their peers. Leaders of these organizations each receive compensation for the work they do.
ASUSF Senate is in the early stages of considerations to get rid of that pay.
The money used to pay student leaders comes from the $113 mandatory student activity fee that students pay every semester with their tuition. According to Senate Vice President of Finance Marcus Aguilar, about 37 percent of the total fund from the activity fee — about $340,335 — goes towards paying Chartered Student Organization (CSO) executives. The remaining 63 percent of the nearly $1 million fund goes towards funding the other 110 Green and Gold organizations ($142,000), events for Campus Activities Board (CAB), development funding, elections, event funding, GIFT (the Green Initiative Fund for Tomorrow) and support services.
Aguilar has been advocating for the removal of hourly wages for CSO leaders in order to diversify what the activity fee is being spent on.
“Last year, there were a lot of budget cuts [for student organizations] due to the fact that we were so limited because we had to pay students,” Aguilar said. “We feel like the money should go back to the students at the end of the day. Also, there is the fact that our student organizations are the only 10 organizations on campus that are paid, but there are other student leaders who may put in the same amount of hours in their positions but are not getting paid. And we don’t think that’s fair. We want it to be equal on all playing fields.”
There are 10 chartered student organizations (CSOs) on campus, with most of them residing on the fourth floor of the University Center. Right now, two groups, Fog Squad and Greek Council, have voluntarily opted out of compensation.
The executives between these eight CSOs are paid a minimum wage of $15 an hour, and each is paid only up to a weekly cap of hours; if they work more, they are not compensated.
According to the Senate budget breakdown, the operating budget is $1,092,115, however, their allocation from the school is only $1,047,743. Because their budget exceeds their money available, Senate has been dipping into their reserves.
Student organizations, if given more funding opportunities from SLE, would have to do less fundraising for travel and merchandise, Senate President Sage Hapke said.
“I support [cutting compensation] because I want groups — especially culturally focused groups like Black Student Union, Latinas Unidas and Prism — to have more money to dive into for their events,” Hapke said. “Those cultural groups are so important, especially right now in this political climate. I want them to have as much economic opportunity as possible and if that means that one person, like myself, isn’t getting paid, I think that’s okay.”
While excited about the prospect of saving money and providing more funds to other student organizations, Hapke recognized the personal cost of the proposed change.
“Automatically I think it would limit the diversity of people who can assume executive leadership roles in those groups,” Hapke said. “I am paid and I don’t think, how Senate currently is, I could do [the job] without getting paid. Also, students would be advised to get another job that does pay and that would cut into the amount of work that they’re putting into Senate [or other organizations].”
Senior Pippa Walton, the events coordinator for College Players, believes cutting compensation will change who can feasibly hold positions. “As director of a show and as a board member, I am currently working close to 30 hours a week for College Players, and I am compensated for 3 hours each week,” Walton said. “I get a grand total of 4 extra hours, throughout the whole semester, for this production. If there was no compensation, it would be really difficult for me to justify dedicating so much of my time and energy to this project. Right now, it doesn’t even come close to compensating my actual workload, but it’s still better than nothing.”
Walton is not capable of working another part time job while working for her organization; without pay, the only people who could hold College Players board positions would be people who have the disposable income and means to support themselves without working another job, she says. This limits who can apply and realistically work for the board and could result in the hiring of less qualified leaders.
“I don’t think the solution to budget cuts is cutting wages, I think it’s examining how efficiently we’re budgeted for other costs,” Walton said.
Graphics Center manager Sarah Hamilton considers her role akin to an internship or job. She works 25 hours per week, which is more than a lot of students on the fourth floor, she said. If she wasn’t getting paid, she would not be able to keep the job, nor gain the leadership, design and outreach experience that she has through the position, she said.
“There is a lot of administrative stuff that I do and a lot of team building things that I wouldn’t feel like I would have motivation to take care of if I wasn’t paid,” Hamilton said. “If none of us were paid, everyone would have to cut back their hours significantly, and we might have to have more employees to cover everything. We get lots of requests every week and oftentimes they are on kind of a tight budget.”
Hamilton believes the absence of pay would not work as well for organizations like Graphics Center and the Foghorn.
“We are providing a service to the community, and I don’t see our structure and model working when hourly pay isn’t a part of the equation, because the work we do in here is modeled after a professional design firm,” Hamilton said. “I don’t see why anyone would want to do that kind of work and not get paid, when you could go to an outside firm and get an internship and get paid for it.”
One option the Senate is considering is keeping compensation only for the Graphics Center and the Foghorn because their organizations have different structures, and their students work more hours than the other SLE organizations, Hapke said. This plan is not definite, though. Senate has also considered only compensating head executives or providing class credit instead of pay.
For some student organizations, Aguilar said taking away compensation might attract more engaged participants.
“They just wanted more money to do events,” Aguilar said, referring to Fog Squad and Greek Council, who voluntarily opted out of compensation. “They 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. I’m glad they did, because it’s kind of setting a precedent for everyone else.”
Currently, Senate is trying to restructure their positions and add members in order to spread out time spent working, so it will be easier for the executives to not receive compensation. With the restructure, however, the Senate president and additional vice president position may still receiving hourly compensation. Hapke reiterated that this is still in the early planning phases.
The initiative to cut compensation could be enacted this year or in the next couple of years, Aguilar said. If Senate’s restructure gets approved, they will hold a special election in February.
“[Instead of 20 hours, Senate members] can do 10. When everyone is doing about 10 hours a week, that’s a lot more manageable to do when you’re not receiving hourly pay,” Hapke said. “From there, our executive board will most likely, around May or so, do an executive order saying we as Senate have removed our compensation.”
The Foghorn has agreed to list Senate’s contact for student organizations. To reach them, email email@example.com.