The Quest | The Free Press of Reed College

Op-Ed: A Senate Divided?

Senate spent over an hour last Thursday arguing about a wage increase for Honor Council members from forty-five to one hundred dollars per month. This would have been well and good—Senate is deliberating important matters during public meetings, rather than in closed executive sessions—if not for the loss of decorum and apparent division, which fell almost perfectly between newly elected senators and senators who are continuing their terms from the fall. Senator Dana Loutey, who served in the fall, went as far as to claim that the only reason wage increases were being proposed was that newly elected Student Body President Brian Moore ’13 previously served on Honor Council. The speaker’s stack was forgotten entirely for several minutes at the peak of the debate. Eyes were rolled and heads were lain on tables in exasperation.

Those Senators who opposed raising Honor Council wages argued that it should be left to the Student Body Wage Review Committee to investigate first. Student Body Wage Review Committee, however, only has the power to recommend wage increases, and Senate has to make the final call. No Senator disagreed that Honor Council members deserved a raise. Senator Marie Perez’s argument for increasing Honor Council wages to make Honor Council positions accessible to students who support themselves financially seemed a strong enough argument to raise wages then and there. Honor Council plays an essential role in the Reed Community as cultivators and guardians of Honor, and as mediators in cases that might otherwise go straight to J-Board. Nonetheless, Senators Loutey and Carlisle and Vice President Aidan Sigman advised that Senate wait for a report from Student Body Wage Review Committee, with only hope from ex-Senator Jenny Calvert-Warren that a report would be complete by the end of the quarter.

There is something to be said for a well-oiled bureaucratic machine, but the bureaucracy that is the Reed Senate (and associated Committees) is decidedly not well-oiled. As Senator Shabab Mirza pointed out, Student Body Wage Review Committee, in its few semesters of existence, has not yet issued a comprehensive report. If Senate has an opportunity to take action to better compensate vital members of the community, both rewarding them for their work and making holding an Honor Council position more feasible for students who support themselves, it should take it. Those Senators who wanted more data about Honor Council’s efforts before they made a decision about a wage increase ignored the facts that were already before them, as Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka would say, “black and white, clear as crystal!” I commend Sigman for engineering a compromise, which would delay the wage increase until a report had been issued by Student Body Wage Review Committee or, if no report was completed, until the end of the semester. But Sigman’s proposal would not make Honor Council immediately more accessible to students who support themselves financially.

Loutey’s assertion that Moore only brought an Honor Council wage increase forward because he used to be on Honor Council, seemingly suggesting that Moore is caring for his own in a conspiratorial or opportunist manner, is divisive and ludicrous. As Vice Treasurer Johannes Harkins noted, Moore can only bring forward issues he of which he is aware. To an ex-member of Honor Council, unfairly low wages would be a glaring flaw.

Read the Senate Beat pertaining to this Op-Ed here.

Comments
34 Responses to “Op-Ed: A Senate Divided?”
  1. dIVERSITYdOlPhin says:

    Dialogue

    Jim: Hey Ted, are wages supposed to be reviewed by the student body wage review committee?

    Ted: I dunno, Jim. What do the bylaws say?

    Jim: They say the Wage Review Committee is supposed to review wages.

    Ted: I dunno… still seems debatable.

    Jim: The problem is, I want to give my buddies a raise, and they take too long… and fixing problems with committees is hard…

    Ted: Well, why do your buddies need a raise so bad, Ted?

    Jim: Because they work REAL hard and higher wages mean that underprivileged kids can do the job too.

    Ted: Does the student body have enough money to pay the equivalent of a real job salary?

    Jim: No, but it’s like… fairer and stuff.

    Ted: Well, Jim – it still sounds kind of like cronyism.

    Jim: Hey, HEY! No ad hominum attacks. That’s just ludicrous and divisive.

    Ted: I’m just saying, it seems like there are a lot of SB employees who work real hard and don’t get payed much.

    Jim: But these guys I KNOW about, I don’t know about other SB employees.

    Ted: Fine, maybe we should go out and find out who else isn’t get payed enough before we deal with your buddies.

    Jim: Why’s that, Ted?

    Ted: Well, Jim, because we don’t have an infinite supply of money, and every dollar we pay out in wages has to be taken away from student groups – so we should give raises to the people who need it most, not just the ones we know need it.

    Jim: But that take TIME, and I’m a very busy senator.

    Ted: Well, I could do it…

    Jim: But we’re friends, and if you did it… well, couldn’t it still look like cronyism? I need to be concerned about image, we’re all about Honorable Student Governance now – and that means we have to look like we’re being transparent, even when we’re not transparent and pretending we are takes more time.

    Ted: Then maybe somebody should make a separate group to take care of these fairness issues, who were somehow independent. Like some kind of… student body group that would be like… a committee… and review wages.

    Jim: Yeah, I see what you mean. If there was a group like that, we could make the whole process less divisive, fairer, and give raises to the people who needed it most. Even if there was some basic structure available to us, we could improve it and this whole issue would go away, and we could go back to the way we should be spending our time – being Honorable. But where could we find such a group?

    Ted: I don’t know, Jim. I just don’t know… maybe this problem is impossible to solve…

    • Kieran Hanrahan says:

      I understand your point that SB Funds are limited, but I reject your point that Brian’s wanting to raise Honor Council wages is cronyism. I think that Johannes offered the proper perspective on that issue.

      And, as I said, Student Body Wage Review Committee has failed to get anything done thus far. Were it functioning in a timely manner, I would side with Dana. Furthermore, you largely ignored Marie’s argument for accessibility. We can’t sustainably offer real wages for student body positions, but I think that better compensating Honor Council is worth it.

  2. dIVERSITYdOlPhin says:

    Ah, but you ignored Ted’s point that “we should give raises to the people who need it most, not just the ones we know need it,” which is the purpose of the student body group that would review wages. And Ted doesn’t have much else to go on, other than Quest writers acknowledge him – poor guy.

    Marie’s point is very much Jim’s statement “higher wages mean that underprivileged kids can do the job too.” Which I think is patently untrue. SB wages suck, SB hours suck. They suck for everyone in every position. [The Dolphin itself had an SB job (diversity committee) which it managed to do while it was also holding down a real job (at Portland SeaWorld). It sucked, but the Dolphin got through it.] The jobs will never be completely accessible, so we have to rely on student’s own sense of duty to encourage them to take the jobs. (this is especially true in the case of Appeals Board, which meets too sporadically to have real wages anyways). The SB does not have enough money to make the wages they pay out a real alternative to getting a job, it’s simply not realistic, as Ted said. Unless New Senate has found a way to make inequality disappear with a flutter of their legislative keyboards, they should instead focus on using their limited funds to pay the best wages they can for the most demanding jobs.

    Now, because it is so hard to determine which jobs are the most demanding on campus, and so exposed to the POSSIBILITY of cronyism, a separate group of people seems necessary to determine where funds should be allocated – a point Ted made until the Dolphin almost got sick of him itself. Wages shouldn’t be allocated on the basis of who we know needs it now, but who actually needs it the most. This will take time to figure out, but wage changes should not be immediate anyways – the people who are currently honor council members can not have expected the salary to substantially change when they signed on, if they did they were being unrealistic (it’s a pandemic!). That’s why wage changes are – and have been since the bonuses craze – set to kick in the next semester. Besides, haste breeds bad decisions – better to wait until you have all the information before you go all-in. Finally, every decision senate makes sets a precedent for how decisions will be made for at least a year – do you really want to have this fight every time a raise is deserved?

    And Jim was in no way necessarily meant to be a crony, he just didn’t want to seem to be a crony. In fact, I feel like Jim’s portrayal was relatively consistent with Josie’s point (a point which I conveniently happen to believe is true in the case of Brian). However, it’s a little silly for anyone to not expect to be accused of cronyism when they’re proceeding in the way that Jim is. Jim shouldn’t be able to call “foul” on Ted for suggestions of cronyism, especially when the senate is so focused on transparency – which seems to imply that previous senates were guilty of, or at least exposed to, cronyism.

    It’s not – in my mind – true that Jim is guilty of cronyism, but we have the Wage Review Committee precisely so it couldn’t be suggested that he was. Why not use it? You agree with Dana – and Ted’s – point on the Wage Review Committee. That’s great. Wouldn’t it be simpler to focus on making the Wage Review Committee quicker than to reinvent the wheel? This would go a considerable way to solving not only the current debate, but all FUTURE debates on wages – because this topic comes up at least once a year. The committee was designed to handle these problems, so it would be far better to make it function in a timely manner than to ignore it and make decisions that are:

    a) based on incomplete information

    b) inconsistent with the bylaws

    because we are so passionate that HC wages be changed this very minute? Have patience, dear Senate (and Quest writer), and know your limits – you can’t make the entire world fair this second, nor should you.

    • Kieran Hanrahan says:

      I don’t disagree. Nonetheless, I, perhaps naively, believe that we should make an exception for Honor Council because they are a vital organ of the student body. Senate could make the decision and at the same time make a point of it being their last without Student Body Wage Review Committee advisement.

      While you, Dolphin, may be arguing on the basis of the POSSIBILITY of cronyism, no such distinction was made in the senate meeting.

    • mm says:

      haha, I had no idea cronyism was a real word.

  3. AnonReedie says:

    Let’s ignore this complex semantic debate – the reality is, this thing is about “old senate” versus “new senate.” Senate has been an insular body for a long time, confined to a few social groups (most notably Rugby/Beer Nation, though not exclusively). Due to a backlash against this, senators who didn’t belong to this social group got elected – Shabab included in his blurb “I’m not on Rugby.”

    Old senate has taken offense at the proposed change because its being proposed more on the outside of their social group. They had no problem handing a giant raise to Jboard last semester- by vote, not by wage review. Honor Council (and The Quest, for that matter) have gotten very few raises traditionally because they don’t have close relationships to senate. It’s not cronyism that “old senate” is objecting to – its not making an exception to the rules, either (plenty of the senators who are complaining have suspended plenty of bylaws themselves – notably, the bylaws were suspended last semester to let somebody who was on leave run, unsurprisingly, the student was good friends with some senators), its simply the fact that they are unhappy that they no longer hold exclusive power over the student body.

    • dIVERSITYdOlPhin says:

      Yeah, screw logic and semantics and stuff! Let’s get good-old-fashioned pissed!

      Maybe it’s better not to worry about pitting old and new senate against each other, but what would be the best solution for the student body – both now and in the future. From what the Dolphin read, you don’t like Rugby and Beer Nation – that’s an opinion you’re entitled to, but not a reason to dislike the Committee. Senate raising Jboard’s wages may have been a mistake – it’s not the Dolphin’s job to defend old senate unconditionally. But the Dolphin doesn’t see a single argument above against letting the Wage Review Committee do its job, in fact it sees a lot of arguments for it. How else can you prevent those evil beer drinking Rugby players from giving their buddies in J-board raises, once they get their diabolical and (at least for the men) somewhat gorilla-like hands back on senate?

      But if it’s just some nice juicy Savonarola-style populism you want, the Dolphin’s got some paintings you can burn to feel righteous… no guillotines though, sorry.

      • Alex Walker says:

        “Look at me, I’m going to rant anonymously so that I can release all of my anger without anyone thinking I’m a jerk in real life.”

        • dIVERSITYdOlPhin says:

          See below.

          • Alex Walker says:

            So now we’ve learned that you were part of “Old Senate” and Rugby. This sheds an interesting light on your comments. Of course, for all I know, the other anonymous commenters could have similarly interesting identities that they don’t want to reveal.

          • dIVERSITYdOlPhin says:

            I also wrote about half of the bylaws they’re arguing about, so if being well informed is a bias… well I guess I must be biased. Other than that, I think my arguments stand for themselves.

    • Nora says:

      I get what you’re saying, but I think you’re being overly simplistic. It’s not as easy as old senate vs new senate, because as I understand it both Torra and Johannes were in favor of the proposed raises (ironically enough they both play rugby, confirming what I’ve always said – ITS A SPORT not some creepy freemasonlike society). I think there are within-senate factions at work here, I just think it’s more complex than old v. new.

      I do think Kieran’s point about Reed Senate’s bureaucracy not being well-oiled is exactly right. Wage Review exists as an efficiency-piece, whose job is to collect information and make an informed recommendation. There’s no reason that Senate can’t make an informed decision without the recommendation of WRC (in fact, it may be the more efficient way to do this, as the committee doesn’t seem to be producing much right now). A parallel way to look at it is Finance Committee – it exists as a small subset of senators who collect information and recommend that all of senate make a decision. It’s a smaller group so that it doesn’t require the attention and time of the entire senate. But this doesn’t mean that all of senate couldn’t make a finance decision all together in an equally efficient way. I think the argument that Senate can’t make a decision about HC wages before WRC recommends something is pretty ridiculous – Senate has the information to make the decision themselves.

  4. Alex Walker says:

    Why does everyone (besides Kieran) need to be anonymous in order to express their views on Senate? Unless it’s really necessary, I think anonymity is not in keeping with the Honor Principle, because it allows people to say whatever they want without owning up to it in public. If you’re not willing to attach your name to what you say, why say it?

    • Lucy Butcher says:

      There are definitely reasons to post anonymously sometimes (see: the recent sexual assault discussions in which many commenters expressed concern for their safety). If the content of the comment is honorable, why does it matter whether or not the name is public? And honorable posts shouldn’t be too hard to ensure, given that the Quest staff moderates all pending comments.

      Also, if you’re concerned about anonymity, especially anonymous trolling, shouldn’t you look at ReedLJ first? It’s died down recently, but in the past it’s been full of extremely cruel anon statements. At least The Quest site has good administrators, and commenters are usually traceable via email (if not to the general public).

      • Alex Walker says:

        Um, Lucy, there may be circumstances in which anonymity is more justifiable, but there pretty clearly isn’t any justification for it in this thread. Also, I’m not sure why you’re bringing Reed LJ up — I don’t spend a lot of time there, but if people are abusing anonymity there then that doesn’t do anything to justify it here. The “honorable content” argument ignores the fact that knowing who is talking is important to evaluating what they say. For example, the anonymous commenters here could already be involved in the debate (like SB government people), and knowing that would make us read their comments in a very different way. Plus, being anonymous gives you an incentive to say dishonorable things, because no one will be able to trace it back to you.

  5. Anon. says:

    I don’t think you can fairly make a case for the increase of J-Board’s wages last semester not going through wage review because that wage increase was funded by the President’s Office following the creation of the SMB (sexual misconduct board). Although it may seem unfair that J-Board had their wages increased outside the purview of wage review, this had nothing to do with ‘old senate’. I agree that there is an old senate versus new senate tension, but an old senate ability to hold power over the student body in no way affected the fact that the President’s office offered to pay J-Board’s wages, while they did not do the same of Honor Council. Had J-Boards wages not been increased by the President’s office, I think you could certainly expect to see them considered by the wage review committee. The fact remains, regardless of social discord, that there was a committee created to review wages, and it is unreasonable to undermine their authority and expect to raise wages without going through them first.

    • Shabab says:

      Just to add facts to the discussion: most but not all of the increase in J-Board wages were paid for by the President’s Office. That is to say, the amount J-Board members are paid out of SB funds has increased.

      • mm says:

        That’s wrong. Let’s clear up some of these “facts”: Senate generally paid $7-9 thousand per semester in JBoard wages. Total JBoard wages are $15k, split evenly btw sbfunds and the President’s office. If you do the math, it’s actually more likely that the SB funds going towards JBoard will DECREASE.

        • Kieran Hanrahan says:

          I imagine that JBoard members do more work than senators.

          • dIVERSITYdOlPhin says:

            While whether senate does more work than JBoard is neither here nor there, the fact that we don’t KNOW how much work is actually done by either (not to mention HC or any other SB position) illustrates effectively that Nora is wrong: Senate DOES NOT have the information they need to make the decision themselves – a corollary to the point Josie made.

            Which is precisely why y’all need to use the WRC: to get that information.

          • mm says:

            I never claimed otherwise.

            • Kieran Hanrahan says:

              I never claimed you claimed otherwise.

              But really, sorry for my lack of clarity. I egregiously misread your comment and assumed you were using Senate pay as a wage ceiling.

              I don’t understand why you think JBoard wages would decrease. Because they make so much currently? I believe that their work is worth compensating as much as we do now.

          • mm says:

            I think you’re misunderstanding what student body funds are, and how the new jboard pay is going to work.
            SBfunds=/=just senate wages. SBfunds is composed of the hundred some odd dollars each student pays every semester in their SBfees. This money is used to yes, pay senate wages, but also the wages of everyone else employed by the student body (HC, Jboard, treasurers, elections czars), AND most of it goes to finance committee/top 40. (There are some other line items, and money will get rolled over from the previous semester, I dunno all the details; ask a treasurer).

            As for JBoard pay increase: the amount that the Jboard members individually (/collectively) get paid IS increasing. However that increase, and then some, is coming from the president’s office–not sbfundz.
            I will be explicit and repeat what I said:
            SBfunds and the prez’s office is splitting total jboard wages evenly. Depending on how many new vs. returning members of jboard there are, that is a max of $15000/sem. The past few semesters jboard wages have totalled between $7000-$9000, paid through the student body ONLY. Do some math, and you can see the most that will ever come out of sbfunds for jboard wages is $7500. Thus jboard wages increase, while the amount coming out of sbfunds decreases (or really, stays pretty much the same).

            • Kieran Hanrahan says:

              I know what SB Funds are. I did not, however, know the specific dollar amounts involved in total JBoard wages, and assumed, based on Shabab’s comment, that any decrease in SB Fund allocation to JBoard would mean a wage decrease. I understand now; thank you for clarification.

      • Shawn Flanigan says:

        I’m not sure if this is entirely accurate Shabab. Last semester Senate voted to revise the J-Board code, which included a provision to increase the number of members in J-Board. This, necessarily, increased the line-item amount that the SB was paying to J-Board as a whole but did not increase the per-member payout from SB funds (a trip to the treasurer’s office seems to confirm this). From my understanding, the raise in wages paid to individuals on J-Board came directly from the administration. Of course, I could be wrong, and the distinction may be irrelevant to the current discussion, but I think said distinction is worth noting.

        • Dana Loutey says:

          In case anyone’s wondering…
          The vote to increase the number of JBoard members was totally separate from the changes made to JBoard wages. So, I think what mm is saying is that the amount we would have paid these 10 members and two chairs under the previous system is roughly equal to the amount we pay now. In that way, the raise in wages paid to J-Board members comes from the administration (President’s office).

          BEFORE
          2 co-chairs @ 175/mo * 4 mo = $1400
          10 members @ 150/mo * 4 mo = $6000
          Total = $7400

          NOW
          2 co-chairs @500/mo * 4 mo = $4000
          5 new members @250/mo * 4 mo = $5000
          5 continuing members @300/mo * 4 mo = $6000
          Total = $15,000
          Total SB funds = $7500

          (The amount JBoard gets out of SB funds varies depending on the composition of J-Board)

          p.s. I’m going to submit something to the quest in response to this op-ed

        • Shabab says:

          Shawn is right, as Dana’s calculations below show.
          While the distinction is worth noting, the point remains that Senate voted to increase wages for a student body position without going through or informing the wage review board (of which I was a student member when the change happened), and I would have voted to do the same with Honor Council wages.
          However, I am optimistic that the wage review board (on which I now serve as a senator) will have something to present by the end of the quarter, and that we will all be able to agree on the means to our common end.

  6. Student says:

    senate has the authority to compensate its members, officers, and appointees for their time, and the establishment of a new paid position or an increase in pay must be passed by a two-thirds vote of the entire senate (art. II, section 1, D).

    the wage review board has the authority to collect information on the student body payroll from past senate records and students currently holding SB positions (who don’t have to comply if they don’t want to). the wage review also has the authority to make recommendations on wages as a part of their report to senate.

    so senate is actually the (only) body with authority to raise wages.

  7. dIVERSITYdOlPhin says:

    And yet…

    II.1.C.vi.

    Once every two years, Senate shall appoint an independent student wage review board of three members, none of whom may be currently on the student body payroll. This board shall be responsible for analyzing the wages of all Student Body employees including all positions paid wages or fixed honorariums by the Student Body. The review board shall present their report to Senate at an open Senate meeting. Senate shall take the review into account when setting wages.”

    The shall in the last sentence should be read as a must, but the point is arbitrary because the argument is not over what Senate “can” do but what they “ought to” do. After all, bylaws are sometimes suspended.

    The Dolphin agrees with Alex’s points on anonymity, and applauds him for it.

    Now, back to SeaWorld.

    - Schwartz

    • botanybay says:

      You were bad enough on campus, Kahn. Stay out of our affairs now that you’re gone.

      • dIVERSITYdOlPhin says:

        Quivering down to my very flippers. Wherever did you find that terrible black mark on my record? Oh, the scandal!

        But I’m glad we’ve all gotten over our predisposition against ad hominum attacks.

      • dIVERSITYdOlPhin says:

        Seriously, does the irony of using this article in an attempt to condemn what I’m saying escape you?

    • Student says:

      senate must (shall) take the report into account when setting wages, sure, but they can’t do that if it isn’t available.
      since this is a new board, the time up until the first report comes out is really the only time senate won’t have a report (ideally no more than two years old) available to review when considering a proposal for a wage raise.

      since the report was supposed to be available at the end of last spring semester and given that the actual authority to set and raise wages is senate’s, it seems more than reasonable for senate to consider the proposal. especially considering it was put together by a past hc chair familiar with senate and hc workload.

      everyone was complaining about how senate doesn’t get paid enough (no one gets paid enough) at the meeting… and if even an informal review has pointed out that hc is paid far far less than senate for similar hours worked (the review board report wont be exact anyways), senate shouldn’t keep hc underpaid (thus excluding people from applying and sticking with it who need the money) because it’s boards haven’t followed through. this isn’t washington, there are like 12 senators and 1200 students at this school… pretty sure it’s ok for this decision to be made.

  8. brightlights says:

    “Honor Council plays an essential role in the Reed Community as cultivators and guardians of Honor”

    Um, yeah…riiiiight.

    While I don’t disagree that they deserve to be paid more than the measly sum they’re currently getting, let’s not exaggerate… Honor Council does maybe one or two things A YEAR that (maybe, possibly) get any meaningful sort of conversation about honor going (among some students). Last year there was a forum or two, but there hasn’t even been anything like that yet this year.

    Honor Council needs to do a lot more before they can be considered “guardians” of the Honor Principle. Like, at the very least, educate the community about the bad things that can and do go on here (and in a real way, not a PR-motivated “yeah there’s bad stuff but only a little bit and, anyway, we’re fixing it right now, we swears” way). That and get the generally apathetic student body to really reflect on the dishonorable behavior that goes on every single day–instead of just constantly citing “too much work!” as an excuse for ignoring it.

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