The Student Senate’s Student Organization Advisory Review Committee, or SOARC, decided in the fall 2015 semester to do a review on positions from all student organizations that receive a stipend on campus.
These meetings involved one to two students representing each stipended position, and explained their role and outlined their need for a stipend in front of the SOARC committee of five members.
These stipended organizations included their own, but Student Senate was the only group able to internally review their stipends.
Sophomore Samantha King, chairwoman of SOARC, led the charge in making sure each paid position was still deserving of having a stipend. The main goal of a stipend is to reward students who take leadership roles, as well as compensate them for the time that is being used for the organization instead of a job.
One of the main elements of the stipend review process was keeping an objective eye throughout.
“There’s a lot of objective and subjective things which gets a little complicated, but I’m lucky and grateful that I have such a large committee to get a big variety of opinions,” King said.
Despite the goal to remain objective, one of the concerns about the stipend review process has been that SOARC, a committee of Student Senate members, reviewed Student Senate’s stipends.
“It was a concern expressed by members of my committee that it would be awkward to do that,” King said, “It may be uncomfortable for people to vote down a position on Senate because they know them. However, any position could have the possibility to know them. So we decided that every vote would be done by secret ballot so that way there would be no pressure.”
Even though the votes were done by secret ballot, the person under review still reserved the right to see who voted in which way. Another concern stems from the appeals process. If a group lost stipends, they can appeal the process by pitching their case to the Executive Committee. If the Executive Committee votes to allow the appeal to move forward, then the Student Senate body can vote on it. This can compromise the objectivity of the review process because most of the stipends on Student Senate are on the Executive Committee.
“As members of Student Senate this is a job that’s been put in our lap and we have to do it no matter how uncomfortable it may be to protect student tax as a student body as a whole,” said King.
King added that Student Senate dissolved two positions that previously received stipends. The first position was Director of Marketing, which is going to be outsourced to someone outside of Senate to be paid for per advertisement. The other position, Secretary, got merged into their Chief Informational Officer position. King said she ultimately trusts the fact that objectivity will not be compromised, as SOARC members are elected to do what is best for the students and not for their own organization.
The reason why the stipend review process came to be was because, “the mentality of Senate became, ‘This is how it’s always been and how it’s always going to be’ and I think you should be constantly growing,” King said.
The criteria for a position to keep its stipend was that the organization has to have existed for two academic years and be Student Senate funded, the individual position has to have existed for at least three consecutive semesters, the position must hold office hours for any student concerns or questions and there needs to be clear evidence for the work of the position.
SOARC then looked at the uniqueness of the group on the student body as a whole and the unique service of the position itself. SOARC tried to imagine what would happen if the position did not exist and how that would affect the student body.
So far, the only organization to lose stipends was Yearbook Renaissance. Yearbook Renaissance, the organization that makes the yearbooks every year, lost all of its stipends. Some of the reasoning behind this decision stemmed from the fact that the yearbook is more of a memento for when you are graduating, rather than benefiting students as a whole, according to King. Another reason was the low turnout of students buying yearbooks.