Student Senate votes down office hour cut

Student Senate votes down office hour cut

The Student Government Association (SGA) voted down an amendment last week that would have reduced the required office hours for its executive board.

The amendment, one of two proposed by Senator Michael Benson at a Joint Senate meeting Thursday, would have cut the minimum number of hours for the president and the executive vice president for student affairs by 10 and five hours per week, respectively, while raising the requirement for the vice president for financial affairs by five hours, up to 25 hours per week.

In an interview with The News, Benson said the concept for the amendment was suggested to him in a conversation with a member of the SGA e-board.

The legislation also stipulated that officers would still be required to complete all prescribed responsibilities and keep a log of service.

“At first glance, anyone that looks at this would say, ‘what are you doing, you’re hurting the organization,'” Benson said at the meeting. But rather, he said, the amendment would “force [elected officers] to delegate more while still being responsible for their actions.”

“We’re not saying that you’re required to do less,” he said. “You’re required to do the same amount of work, just find a more efficient way to do it.”

Benson said the shift toward a lighter schedule became necessary after the university “removed a guaranteed source of funding for our executive board,” referring to the creation of the Leadership Scholars Program, which awards merit-based scholarships to student leaders, earlier this year.

The program replaced a previous system in which all six members of the SGA e-board, as well as the editor in chief of The News, were awarded full-tuition scholarships.

Three members of the SGA e-board were awarded support under the program: President Rogan O’Handley, Vice President for Student Services Susan Dye and Vice President for Administration and Public Relations Krystal Beaulieu.

In addition to any financial support awarded from the program, each e-board member will receive a stipend, ranging from $3,000 to $4,000. This money will come from the association’s budget for the coming year, which set aside $20,000 for compensation.

During the meeting, Senator Sarah Metcalf questioned the need for the amendment, saying the association is “functioning on peanuts to ensure that the e-board could live comfortably.”

However, Benson said even the stipends do not fully make up for the lost ground.

“It’s really unrealistic for the individuals that we elected to serve us to do that within the same time as holding a job,” he said, explaining the stipend should be sufficient to replace a co-op, financially.

The Senate soon focused on the latter portion of the amendment, with concerns centered on the need for logging executive activities. The condition was later removed, causing Benson to withdraw his support and urge senators not to vote for it.

“As soon as that provision was struck, I could not support the reduction of office hours,” he said after the meeting.

When it came time for a vote, the amendment was struck down unanimously. Five abstentions – four of which came from members of the e-board – were cast.

Beaulieu, the only e-board member to cast a vote, said after the meeting that she believed it was too early to cast such a determination on a time commitment, and the e-board needed to “give it a shot.”

“I think that it’s too soon to say that we can’t do this, and I understand the rationale behind the amendment,” Beaulieu said.

“At the end of the year, if we say we tried this and it was too hard and it didn’t work, really we can propose it again if we think it’s necessary,” she said. “But I think throwing up our arms and saying, ‘we can’t do this,’ it’s too soon, and if you’re elected as leaders in this organization then you should have the drive to do this.”

After the meeting, O’Handley said he was content with the progress at his first Joint Senate presiding as president.

“I thought it went well,” he said. “It was good to have a lot of productive debate occurring in senate, and it was good to get things rolling again as we move into the fall semester.”

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