Student leaders may lose scholarships

For the last 16 years, Student Government Association (SGA) executive board members have received free tuition for their efforts as student leaders.

After nearly two years of discussion, that policy may soon come to an end.

“From my standpoint, free tuition is not the right way to compensate them,” said Ed Klotzbier, vice president for student affairs. “I don’t think the scholarship should be the key piece of what somebody earns when they’re elected.”

Klotzbier is aiming to replace the executive board’s free tuition with a stipend of lesser value – the exact terms of which, he said, would be decided by student government.

“They can take a vote, and as long as it’s publicly debated and within reason, I don’t see us stepping in at all,” Klotzbier said.

In addition to the six SGA executive positions, the editor-in-chief of The Northeastern News is annually awarded free tuition by the university. This would no longer apply under a restructured policy, he said.

SGA President Ashley Adams said the executive board was told about the university’s interest in resolving the matter during a routine meeting with President Richard Freeland before winter break, but was assured the lines of communication would remain open.

“We were promised by President Freeland that we would be involved in the process every step of the way,” Adams said.

Although administrators have been contemplating a change to the policy for some time, Klotzbier said the change to a stipend-based platform is necessary for SGA to fulfill its desire for direct elections by the entire student body in 2007.

“As we go toward a university-wide election, we should have a very structured deal in regard to what SGA compensation looks like,” he said. “I’m not sure that I can sit here and be comfortable knowing those people who are elected get free tuition versus a stipend.”

Besides the changing climate of student government, Klotzbier said the university’s transformation to a more residential campus has affected student involvement, which has eliminated the need for the scholarships.

“I think today’s Northeastern is much different now than it was in the late 1980s,” he said. “We’re a much more residential Northeastern with students who are increasingly more engaged in student life.”

However, John Curry, who became president of Northeastern in 1989, the same year the leadership scholarships were created, gave a different account of student engagement during his seven-year tenure.

Curry said he was in favor of awarding free tuition to the seven student leaders because he was “empathetic and sympathetic” to the heavy workload their positions required.

“I felt very strongly at that point, having been very close to many other student groups,” Curry said, “that if a football player who doesn’t even get into the game is able to get a tuition-free scholarship, why not someone who is providing leadership to our students?”

The compensation model currently in place at Northeastern is not unlike those found at other institutions across the country, Adams said.

At Ohio State University in Columbus, she said, the president and vice president of its student government each receive full-tuition from the university, as well as a stipend for books and housing.

The scholarships allow executive board members the opportunity to focus on their elected responsibilities and assigned coursework without having to find time for a job on the side, Adams said.

“The whole purpose [of student government] is to advocate for the students, and those scholarships are just a way to provide us with the support to do that,” she said.

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