The price of student leadership at USC

Naylee Nagda and Terry Nguyen | Daily Trojan

Undergraduate Student Government leaders’ yearly stipends are measurably higher than those of other college leaders in the state.

Last year, the Daily Trojan reported that former USG Senator Kate Oh and former Executive Director of the Academic Culture Assembly Luis Vidalon-Suzuki presented a proposition to pay all USG members hourly at Los Angeles County’s wage rate, rather than by varying yearly stipends.

However, Oh was unable to produce any change, as Section 4.C of Article X of the USG Bylaws states that changes to stipend values can only be proposed during the fall semester of even years. However, if Oh’s proposal had passed, it would have decreased the USG president’s stipend by $2,000 and the vice president’s by $845, the Daily Trojan reported.

The highest-paid position in USG is the president, who receives $10,000 a year, followed by the USG vice president, who receives $8,000 a year, according to USG Bylaws.

The chief of staff, treasurer, senior director of programming,  speaker pro tempore and senior director of communications — all part of the president’s executive staff — receive $6,000 a year. Advocacy directors receive $3,400 a year and senators receive $2,000 a year. The lowest stipends are for the parliamentarian and secretary at $1,500.

Unlike USC, UCLA pays its student body president $220 a week, and gives stipends to the president or chief operating officer of any official student organization $152 a week.

UC Berkeley determines the stipend of students serving the student body in their general budget. This academic year, the school’s student body president and vice president receive $4,000 each while their chiefs of staff each receive $2,000. Berkeley’s 20 senators receive $500 for the year.

Naylee Nagda and Terry Nguyen | Daily Trojan

Stanford University’s undergraduate bylaws are private, but in the undergraduate-graduate joint bylaws, it is stated that the maximum compensation for positions other than chief of staff is $500 per year.

The USG stipends are not based on the minimum wage rate, according to 2016 – 2017 USG president Edwin Saucedo. Current California minimum wage is $10.50, and Los Angeles County minimum wage is $13.25 for organizations with 26 or more workers. According to section 1.G of Article II of the USG bylaws, the USG president is expected to work 20 hours each week during the 30 weeks in the school year.

“In my experience in USG, every student leader worked more hours than their job description called for,” Saucedo said in an email to the Daily Trojan. “A typical week when I was president required 20-30 hours of work both inside and outside of the office. On given weeks this could be more depending on meetings or projects.”

If the USG president were to work solely the required 20 hours per week, the president’s hourly wage would amount to $16.67 per hour, above both state and county minimum wages.

Some positions are comparable to minimum wage, as USG advocacy directors receive $3,400 a year and are expected to work 10 hours a week, making their hourly pay about $11.33.

However, other positions are underpaid in comparison to minimum wage. USG Senators receive $8.33 per hour, and are expected to work eight hours a week and receive $2,000 a year.

“I was always a believer that every student leader in USG should be paid the same wage per hour,” Saucedo said in the email. “I was supportive of the president and executive cabinet being paid at the same wage as all other positions and their stipend being adjusted based on the number of hours their position requires.”

Katie Bolton, a USG senator, said she is concerned with the spending practices of the organization she serves. She said USG might not be making the most responsible choices with its budget.

“We are doing a lot of work [and] we are spending a lot of time,” Bolton said. “It’s also true that if it wasn’t paid, some students might not be able to do it because they need to make money elsewhere.”

Yet, she said she was worried about the amount of money that comes with certain positions.

“I’m not sure if the amount that we’re paid necessarily makes sense,” Bolton said. “We want students to be doing this because they actually want to serve the student body, not just to build their resume and make money.”

Student stipends account for the second-largest portion of USG’s $2.3 million budget at $232,700, following the Concerts Committee which received $495,000 for the 2017-2018 school year.

Olivia Pearson, the co-executive director of the Environmental Student Assembly, which falls under the programming branch of USG, also believes that some stipends are too high.

“Ten thousand dollars for a president — that is a little far-fetched in my opinion,” Pearson said. “Because that’s almost how much someone would make outside of school. Some people’s parents make $30,000 a year, so for your extracurricular activity to be making a third of someone’s living wage is a little much. So yes, stipends should be lower.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the figures of UCLA’s payments to student leaders. The Daily Trojan regrets this error.