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Executive pay sparks USG debate

By Jackie Wattles
On April 17, 2014

  • Edward Courchaine, USG President, presides over the organizations final formal meeting, during which a controversial bill that would compensate executive members was debated. Ashely Trihn/The Daily Campus

The Undergraduate Student Government considered changes to its bylaws that would make president, vice president, comptroller, committee chairs and senate speaker paid positions. The senate ultimately tabled those changes for consideration later on, but approved other minor changes to the bylaws.
Senator Jake Broccolo, a South Campus senator, worked with Bylaws Committee Chair Colin Ng, as well as other USG executive members and committee chairs, on working executive compensation into the bylaws.
Broccolo was among eight USG members that attended the annual Conference on Student Government Association earlier this semester in College Station, TX.
"At COSGA we saw about 18 other student governments, and the majority of them have compensation," Broccolo said. "Seventy-seven percent nationwide are compensated in some way. From what I've seen with the executive here at UConn and the work and hours they put in, I think they deserve it."
The version of the compensation proposed to the senators Wednesday suggested paying $3,500 to the USG president each semester; $3,000 to the vice president, comptroller and senate speaker; and $2,500 to committee chairs. All executive members, including the chief of staff, would also receive meal cards worth 200 points - but it caps all executive compensation at $54,000.
Broccolo said he arrived at the numbers by calculating they would be "class three" university employees, who are paid from between $10.30 to $12.35 per hour. Broccolo used the $12.35 figure and calculated that the president would put in about 20 hours per week for 14 weeks of the semester.
As the changes were written, compensation would not take effect until the 2015-2016 academic year. The proposed changes also outline a web of oversight for the members who would receive compensation, tapping the USG Judiciary with ensuring the executive members are fulfilling their duties. It also opens up a pathway to file a case against members who are "displaying substantial evidence of negligence," giving the judiciary the right to strip an executive member of his or her pay.
Because the proposed changes were tabled, it could be voted down before it goes to the senate floor again. But discussion among senators indicated they will work on the logistics informally and reconsider the changes at the next formal senate meeting either on April 30 or next fall.
However, the final formal senate of the semester is typically a hectic one, as the organization must induct new senators and essentially hold two separate meetings in one night. But Chairperson Kailee Himes said waiting until next fall would be unwise.
"It would make sense to consider this change now, while the executive committee members in the room have experience, rather than trying to consider this next semester when the executive members are new," Himes said.
The current executive members did state Wednesday how much time they typically spend working on USG-related tasks during the week, which ranged from a max of 35 hours for president and comptroller during a busy time of year, to a low of 15 hours a week.
Some senators have already indicated they disagree with putting executive compensation in the bylaws, and recommended changes of this caliber should be put in the USG Constitution - which must be approved via referendum by the entire student body.
"It's the students' money, it's a question the students should answer," Senator Kevin Alvarez said.
Other Tier III organizations - including The Daily Campus - do compensate its members. But some senators said they support the bill but worry about the reaction of the student body to a "Congress-like" scenario where USG members would essentially approve payments they could one day receive.
Changes to Section XXI of the bylaws, which outlines how USG programs operate, were also considered, only to also be tabled. This section used to list specific positions and duties of controlling members of those programs. However, Deputy Speaker and Chairperson of the USG Bylaws Review Committee Colin Ng said these titles were rarely used in practice.
He pointed to Guard Dogs, a sober rides that has been USG's most well known program, as an example of the futility of the laws. The Guard Dogs program was suspended in December.
"For Guard Dogs the program was defined and positions were defined, and that fell through," Ng said. "We had to redo it. This (change) gives programs the flexibility to establish its own board of directors without predefined definitions."
Changes to the bylaws that were formally approved establish an Executive Senior Staff, which would include a chief of staff, communications director and event planner. While not all of the roles are new, the bylaw changes seek to formalize what is essentially the president's cabinet. Each of the senior staff positions is to be appointed by the president at the first meeting of the fall semester.

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