Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Possible Stipend for StuCo?
Appointments Chair Will Lawrence ’13 introduced the question of paying StuCo members, either by stipend or hourly salary. If all members of Council agreed, the proposal would pass, otherwise it would go to a student referendum. The current StuCo members would not benefit from the proposal.
Co-President Gabby Capone ’14 said that she doesn’t believe that all the positions should be paid the same amount, but that might mean that students would run only for the highest-paid positions. Student Group Advisor Lanie Schlessinger ’15 said that hourly pay would be hard to determine. Lawrence suggested clocking the same amount of hours each week.
Concerns were raised about the student body’s potential reaction. Lawrence said he emailed former StuCo Vice President Deivid Rojas ’11 who previously spearheaded a stipend initiative for StuCo members. Rojas said the referendum was beat down by only 30 votes two years ago.
Closed Portion of Weekly StuCo Meeting
StuCo members decided that the last portion of the weekly StuCo meeting will be closed; private to StuCo members and the individuals or groups who come to present a private or sensitive issue. This decision came after several weeks of students coming to the open Sunday meetings and wanting to be heard “off the record.”
“[At] an open meeting, that doesn’t make sense on principle,” said Co-Managing Editor of The Daily Gazette Max Nesterak ’13. He was also concerned about students choosing which parts of their conversations would or wouldn’t be reported, “making the conversation seem weighted” either for or against them, depending on the issue.
Capone brought up the issue of misrepresentation in The Gazette’s StuCo reports, either through comments presented with a lack of context or factual errors and misquotes. There is also the fear, she noted, of anonymous attacks on The Gazette website.
Out of respect for these concerns, The Gazette will not attend or report on the closed portion of StuCo meetings.
Capone will be meeting with Dean of Students Liz Braun to discuss Genderfuck, the Board of Managers meeting and other current issues. Lawrence stressed that he would like Braun to know how happy students are that Genderfuck is a go. He said that students were “very concerned” about its possible cancellation, and prepared to push back against the administration on issues of social life on campus.
At the recent Educational Policy Study Break, StuCo collected survey information that they will share with the Educational Policy Committee. A lot of students were concerned about the reduction in faculty course load, and would like there to be a forum to discuss it. StuCo is considering sending out a school-wide survey on these issues.
StuCo is planning a meeting to discuss sexual assault on campus. The meeting is currently scheduled for March 15 at 7 p.m. in Kohlberg Coffee Bar.
On Thursday the 16th of February StuCo is holding an information session. They are asking students to come with topics they would like discussed with the Board of Managers and also to put forward suggestions for StuCo.
Outreach Coordinator Ian Anderson ’13 has finished working on the StuCo website, which should be launching soon.
What constitutes a private or sensitive issue? And who gets to decide?
Adding a closed portion to meetings threatens transparency and accountability, two ideals that are mandated by the Student Council constitution. It reads:
“The Student Council shall show leadership and integrity in support of the students and within the guidelines set forth by this Constitution. In doing so, the SC must strive in all its actions to be both transparent and accountable to its constituency.” -Article 1, Section 1
One major role of journalists/the press is to be a witness for the public. Since most Swatties cannot attend every single Student Council meeting, those of us who want to stay informed rely on reading new developments in the Daily Gazette. While members of student council are right to expect the Daily Gazette to accurately represent what people say and do and fact-check their articles before publication, beginning the practice of closed meetings is no solution. Student council should promptly reverse its decision.
The clarification of our policy with regard to open meetings was in response to the fact that, like it or not, students were already going “off the record” repeatedly in the supposedly “open” meetings. This practice predated the terms of any current StuCo members, and was tolerated by the Gazette and Phoenix for the sake of expediency.
This practice presumably started simply out of convenience. Some conversations, such as an ongoing discussion about administrative responses to sexual assault, are personally and/or politically sensitive, and thus need to be off the record, at least until a certain stage. If we couldn’t have these conversations in private, they wouldn’t happen at all. This wouldn’t serve the interests of the student body whatsoever.
The current StuCo realized, however, that this de facto practice of going off the record in meetings did not align with the Constitution. This is why we clarified the policy–to bring our practices in line with the Constitution, rather than violate it. I can see how the report may have been slightly misleading, however. Rather than creating a “closed portion of the weekly StuCo meeting,” we simply clarified that we will deal with private or sensitive matters after the adjournment of the meeting. Put another way, our regular open meeting is now followed by a (shorter) closed meeting, when one is necessary.
This clarification of our policy will allow us to deal with private or sensitive issues as needed, without violating the Constitutional requirement for open meetings, which I personally support whole-heartedly.
Hopefully this clears things up. Let me know if you have further questions or concerns.
Just so the report is clear to everyone, I have the minutes from the Sunday meeting which say “Plan: end of meetings will be closed, we will make it a private meeting, DG will leave, and sensitive topics can be discussed.” So it looks like it was decided that the closed portion is part of the regular weekly meeting.
Thank you for clarifying.
Despite the slight confusion over the semantics (which I guess I just created), the spirit of what we discussed in the meeting was clear–we want to have clear boundaries with regard to what is open and what is closed. As Adam noted, the Constitution mandates accountability and transparency, which we certainly strive for. This is why the vast majority of discussions, including all motions and resolutions, will remain open.
However, I don’t think anybody would disagree that some issues must remain private. The decision this weekend intends to create a clearly delineated space and time for these conversations. The hope is that making this space and time clear, and ending the practice of simply going “off the record” whenever one sees fit, StuCo will be able to achieve greater overall transparency.
Sure sure sure, I see your arguments. Doesn’t stop it from being horribly ironic that I voted for most of you on platforms of change and transparency, and the first thing I get back is StuCo paying itself and closed meetings.
“If all members of Council agreed, the proposal would pass, otherwise it would go to a student referendum.”
Sorry guys, I don’t think that’s necessarily fair. That sort of thing OUGHT to be a referendum to begin with. I get that the idea is to allow students who would otherwise be working to participate in something really time intensive, but the problem is, it comes with other benefits too – which I think if you don’t have to work (for pay) than those benefits are rewards in an of themselves (ie, resume building, networking, influence, etc)
So for example, I think that it ought to be a part of work/study – if that applies to you, then AFTER you’ve been elected, you can receive the compensation. I’m sure people disagree with me – some in favor of the proposition, some against. But there ought to be more conversation about this campus wide. After all, StuCo DOES affect the entire student body…
StuCo should absolutely not be paid. The fact that this group of students–who are basically, sorry guys, just a formal and student-elected club–is voting among themselves on whether they should receive pay is totally laughable. It’s also downright impolite of those in higher positions to suggest different pay levels for different positions–especially when, as observed above, they’ve abandoned the aims of their own platforms (or is that why Madame Co-President put “transparency” in quotations when she wrote hers?).
Anyway, where is this pay coming from? Are they going to tax the students?
Were the students behind this idea raised in a barn, or do we go to school on Animal Farm?
@Benjamin. I actually think paying StuCo is a great idea. It makes StuCo more accessible to all students. As Will Lawrence said it will allow more people to afford to make the large time commitment and will (maybe) improve the quality of both the candidates and elections.
Because of Swarthmore’s great financial aid, students here aren’t as pressured as at other colleges to be working three jobs in order to pay tuition or prepare for the large student debt that follows graduation. In this way, Swarthmore is a great place to put in an incredible amount of unpaid labor into services that benefit the campus. That being said, many students need to work an on campus job in addition to their unpaid extracurriculars in order to pay for the day-to-day things. Paying StuCo would allow its members to drop the on campus job and devote more energy into the work they do. I think more organizations should pay their members, not so anyone can get rich, but so students can afford to put in all that extra time and not have to pick up a second job (that takes time away from their studies). Plus, the college has plenty of money to make this happen. It’s not like we can’t afford to dish out a stipend that would significantly benefit student workers and which at the same time would be insignificant to the college’s annual budget. I’m sure they spend more money over the course of a year buying donuts and coffee for meetings than they would on StuCo salaries.
I understand that it seems weird to pay members of what is essentially a glorified club, but the question shouldn’t be whether or not they should be paid, but rather can everyone on campus afford to do what they do. Here’s to equal opportunity in StuCo!
It shows a personal interest. A strange person? Why doesn’t care. “Is it exactly!