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.