Start by paying the students who need it most
Student Association president Solomon Ni presented a motion during the March 20 senate to pay voting members of the SA essentially $8 every senate in session, which they are required to attend. Our new cohort of SA representatives near-unanimously shot the motion down.
While we applaud Ni’s effort to compensate student leaders and aren’t opposed to paying leaders when possible, we have to acknowledge that current resources are limited and ultimately should be best spent to lower the barriers to access opportunities for low income students. A pay capped at $200 for an entire academic year for all voting members of the SA makes little difference in students’ lives compared to redirecting this fund towards need-based allocation for SA members.
Divvying up limited resources equally between students doesn’t result in equal impact. First-generation low-income students are frequently at a disadvantage when it comes to their ability to offer up unpaid labor compared to their peers. Offering stipends for low-income students when possible increases the opportunities for them to be involved on campus, as well as promotes inclusivity and brings more diverse voices to the table in our student organizations.
There is also something to say about the nature of the SA being a student-elected, voluntary government body. At a time when the student body is vocally questioning the efficacy of the SA and the downright purpose of its existence, we caution the SA against risking increasing dissent for a slim chance of increasing internal engagement. The point of volunteer positions is to give back to the Rice community for that reason. This holds true for organizations outside of the SA as well. We hope we don’t lose sight of the value of volunteering for our community.
As a general rule, organizations should direct their resources to the areas they will do the most good. Just looking at the statistics, the majority of Rice students do not need financial incentive to give back to our community. However, for FGLI students, financial accessibility is a barrier to participating in student leadership positions in the SA and beyond. By concentrating resources, we can remove those barriers and ensure everyone’s voice can be heard on campus.
We need to think more critically and realistically about how we compensate student leaders. Working with what we have, we should dedicate resources to making student leadership positions accessible to students who might otherwise be financially unable to devote their time.
Editor’s Note: Thresher editorials are collectively written by the members of the Thresher’s editorial board. Current members include Ben Baker-Katz, Morgan Gage, Bonnie Zhao, Hajera Naveed, Nayeli Shad, Riya Misra, Michelle Gachelin, Daniel Schrager, Prayag Gordy and Brandon Chen.
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