Student Senate funds Second Chair of Equity in Student Matters Commission

Senate also passed a bill to amend the Equity in Student Matters Bylaws

More stories from Rachyl Houterman


Photo by Kar Wei Cheng

After an amendment was made to the special allocation bill, the Second Chair of the Equity in Student Matters Commission will be compensated $4,346 for the 2017-18 school year.

In a meeting full of deliberation, Student Senate passed two bills pertaining to the Equity in Student Matters (ESM) Commission — one regarding amendments to the ESM Bylaws and the other regarding a previously tabled special allocation bill to fund the Second Chair of the ESM Commission.

The first item to be voted on was a bill to amend the ESM Bylaws. Justin Vue, the second chair of the ESM Commission, said the bill had two main points: Changing the Chair names and changing the compensation of those chairs.

The bill proposed renaming the First Chair of the ESM Commission to “Student Equity Director” and the Second Chair to “Senate Equity Director.” Vue said the changes were intended to clear up confusion surrounding the previous titles.

The second change proposed pooling together the compensation funds from the First Chair and the Second Chair and splitting the amount equally so each position receives the same amount.

Prior to the passage of the bill, the First Chair would be compensated the same as an intern position, while the Second Chair would be compensated the same as a director position. Interns and directors are paid $2,172.69 and $4,346 stipends, respectively.

The compensation changes will be implemented in the 2018-19 General Operations Budget cycle.

Senator Alejandra Estrada spoke in favor of the bill, saying those on the commission are passionate about helping students on campus and work tirelessly to do so.

“Speaking personally as being a part of the commission and a part of the committee that created the commission, I see nothing but passion and hard work,” Estrada said. “I just think that there should be equal and above-coordinator-position-pay for this work because it is tireless, and it is representing such a large population of our students.”

The bill passed 23-2-4 in a roll call vote.

Funding the Second Chair of the ESM Commission

The bill to fund the Second Chair of the ESM Commission for the 2017-18 school year, which was tabled for one month at a meeting in September, was brought back to the Senate body to be voted on Monday.

As it stood before passage of the bill, the Second Chair was not funded but was still working.

The bill sparked debate after Finance Director Dier Pulatov announced the requested allocation did not meet the special allocation requirements and therefore violated the Student Senate bylaws. The Finance Commission decided to allocate $2,172.69 to fund the Second Chair anyway.

Chapter 12, Section 2 of the Senate Bylaws list four criteria used to reach a decision for special allocation requests. The second criteria states “This event or activity must be determined to be an extraordinary item.”

At the heart of the debate was the definition of “extraordinary,” which Pulatov said was interpreted to mean “unplanned” and “unforeseen.” He said since it was known the Second Chair wouldn’t be funded when the revised bylaws were passed in the spring, the special allocation did not technically qualify as “unforeseen.”

However, some senators held that “unforeseen” referred to the knowledge of the issue at the time of creation of the 2017-18 General Operations Budget. The budget was created in fall 2016 while the ESM Commission was created in the spring, thus it was unforeseen the position would need to be funded when the budget was created. Others held it was foreseen because Senate knew of the issue when they passed the revised bylaws.

Another factor playing into the debate was a Human Resources (HR) policy which requires people to be provided wages for their work. If they aren’t being paid, it’s breaking state law. Because of this, Pulatov said it explains some of the logic behind the decision to allocate funds. Student Body President Katy McGarry said the HR policy supersedes the Student Senate Bylaws.

Alex Stout, the information technology director, who has sat on the finance commission for the past three years, said the commission has dealt with the same issue in the past.

“I’m not attacking the commission itself, but I’m just saying to be fair to other organizations who have been denied in the past — they’ve been doing great work too,” Stout said. “In the past few years we’ve denied a lot of special allocations based on this same exact argument, and I don’t think Student Senate should make an exception for themselves. I think that’s wrong.”

Senator Alejandra Estrada said she believes the special allocation qualifies as unforeseen because the Second Chair and the ESM Commission weren’t introduced until spring 2017. Because most everyone in the 61st Session was there upon the revised bylaws passage, they had time to negate the issue then.

“I think we should approve this allocation because we will be operating in the same way  in the upcoming year,” Estrada said. “Not approving this allocation and allowing students to work unpaid, I think that is a complete disservice and disrespect to what Student Senate stands for.”

A motion to strike the allocated amount of $2,172.69 from the bill and amend it to $4,346 passed 11-9-5 in a placard vote.

Chief of Staff Branden Yates said he was disappointed Senate continues to “put on Band-Aids for the last session’s mistakes” and has to use student-funded segregated fees to fix them.

“I’m disappointed that we give Student Senate a preference among other organized activities because I believe if other organized activities came in front of us today we would not give them this much look,” Yates said, “and I think we’re breaking viewpoint neutrality by looking at our own organized activity, our own special allocation different rather than if it was Forensics or The Spectator or any other special allocation that comes through us.”

Senator Marc Cain disagreed with Yates, saying he thinks the special allocation bill would put the ESM Commission “on par” with the other commissions.

“It’s not really putting on Band-Aids, it’s paying for the work that’s being done, and I think that’s what needs to happen,” Cain said.

The bill passed 11-8-6 in a roll call vote.