The Undergraduate Student Government is voting on a bylaw change this Tuesday to give the Executive Board more flexibility in determining the work requirements and compensation levels for USG officials. Supporters of the change maintain that the total expenditure on student stipends will more or less remain the same. Regardless, the move should remind all Trojans that USG compensation is far above average and compel USG to seriously reconsider compensation levels during the planned bylaws rewrite this summer.
USG compensation is already high compared to other top California universities. During the 2013-2014 school year, USG spent $239,000 on student stipends — the compensation students receive for serving as an elected or appointed USG official — which was far more than the student governments of UCLA, UC Berkeley or Stanford spent. Two years later, in 2015-2016, total stipend spending was $9,000 higher, totaling $248,000.
That $248,000 total is not expected to change for 2016-2017. USG Vice President Austin Dunn said in an interview with the Daily Trojan that when the Budget Committee met this weekend to discuss the upcoming USG budget, they aimed to keep total stipends at the current level.
However, a total stipend line item near a quarter of $1 million is excessive and should be lowered as soon as possible. Dunn also mentioned that he and the Executive Board would be meeting once this semester ends to completely rewrite the bylaws, which would give them an opportunity to lower stipend amounts across the board.
In the last election cycle, candidates asked for Trojan votes because, ostensibly, they wanted to serve students. Elected officials do a disservice to students if they seek higher office primarily for the financial compensation. No one should come to USG seeking personal wealth. Yet, payouts for student leaders remain high.
At other universities, where student leaders are paid less, student government positions are still competitively sought after. Some students have a sincere desire to serve their communities. When the topic has been previously brought up at USC, USG members have stated that the stipends must remain to compensate officials who would otherwise need to seek private employment to afford their time in school. Still, it remains unclear how student officials at UCLA, Stanford and UC Berkeley are able to survive with lower stipends than USC student representatives. USG can — and must — do better.