Senate Beat; or, The Whale
On Thursday Senate discussed Honor Council and Appeals Board wage increases and increasing cigarette prices at the Paradox. Head Treasurer Adhikarimayum “Khagi” Khagemba ’14 also announced he would be resigning this month.
Mark Hintz ’12, Paradox Manager, recommended raising the price of all cigarette brands carried by the Paradox by twenty-five cents, except Pyramids, which would rise in price by one dollar, and American Spirits, which would rise in price by fifty cents. Senator JR Rodriguez ’12 was the only Senator opposed. Hintz noted that the Paradox is currently undercutting the Seven Eleven on Southeast 28th Avenue. “One of the great things about selling cigarettes is that people are addicted to them,” Hintz said, adding that the Paradox’s convenience justified overselling Plaid Pantry. Vice President Aidan Sigman ’13 asked about baked goods, noting that the Paradox lost money selling baked goods each month last semester except October. Hintz blamed irregular wage distribution and said that the Paradox would be cutting costs. Jeremy Lawrence ’12 said he was bothered by extravagant and expensive baked goods, adding that he refused to pay three dollars and twenty-five cents for a lemongrass cookie. Khagemba voiced concerns about how the Paradox reports expenses, saying that the Paradox’s broad definition of the “miscellaneous” category on its financial spreadsheets made it unaccountable. Hintz said he was improving the Paradox’s accounting system and blamed previous Paradox managers for the mess.
But most of Senate Meeting was spent in a protracted argument about increasing Honor Council wages. Senator Marie Perez claimed that increasing Honor Council wages from forty-five dollars to one hundred dollars per month would allow students who support themselves to consider joining Honor Council a financially realistic option. Senator Dana Loutey ’12 disagreed, arguing that the decision should be left to Student Body Wage Review Committee, which could then raise Honor Council wages at the same time as other positions’ wages. Ex-Senator Jenny Calvert-Warren ’12, currently on SBWRC, said that it is SBWRC’s responsibility to research how much work Honor Council is doing and then to decide how large a wage increase is merited. Calvert-Warren added that SBWRC is already conducting a sweeping review of student wages, and claimed that raising Honor Council wages was being considered only because Student Body President Brian Moore ’13 was a member of Honor Council prior to his election.
Perez argued that Senate should not hesitate to raise Honor Council’s wages just because other positions are underpaid and repeated that some students have financial obligations they need to meet. Senator John Iselin ’13 agreed that Honor Council deserved the raise. Senator Sarah Carlisle ’13 claimed that it would be impossible to fully compensate students for the work they do and that students work in student body positions because they love to and not because of the pay.
Ex-member of SBWRC Senator Shabab Mirza ’13 argued that SBWRC does not yet have the data to make accurate analyses about student wages. Calvert-Warren said she hoped SBWRC would have a report by the end of the quarter. Senator Torra Spillane ’12 claimed Senate has ultimate authority when deciding wage increases, adding that raising wages may persuade people to apply. Loutey asked Moore why he didn’t leave the issue to SBWRC. Moore claimed that with recent Honor Council code changes, Honor Council will have an increased workload, and that Finance Committee needs to know how much money it has available going into Funding Circus and Funding Hell, when Student Body Funds are allocated to student groups.
Student Union Manager Shawn Flannigan suggested delaying the wage increase and putting aside money to pay Honor Council members if SBWRC does recommend a raise. Perez repeated her call to move on the issue, and Iselin agreed. The speaker’s stack was closed after a vote. Tension in the room lightened as Messick attempted to abstain but was affectionately reminded that as Assistant Treasurer he had no vote in the matter.
Calvert-Warren argued that Student Body funds were primarily for sponsoring events and student groups and not for use as students’ “spending money,” and commended Senate for proposing legislation early in the semester. Perez agreed but said that not every student has the luxury of spending money. Loutey said again that the issue should be decided by SBWRC and supported Flannigan’s compromise. Iselin said that the retroactive payment proposed by Flannigan would be messy. Sigman said that Honor Council is not paid enough but that he wanted to wait for a report from SBWRC. Loutey asked if Senate could wait on deciding the matter until after Funding Hell.
Mirza recounted that during his time on SBWRC, the committee was disorganized. Sigman repeated his call for more data. Perez argued that the specifics of the issue were irrelevant and said that the giant skee ball alley put in the Student Union by Defenders of the Universe probably cost more than the proposed wage increase. Loutey again said that Senate should leave the decision to SBWRC. A vote was held to reopen the speaker’s stack, but Perez’s was the only yea vote.
Mirza motioned to approve the increase provisionally until the SBWRC could issue a report. Sigman said any change made by Senate would hard to change later. Loutey reissued her call to wait for a report by SBWRC. Mirza countered that SBWRC hasn’t been “SUPER EFFECTIVE.” Sigman sided with Loutey. Moore said that Honor Council members earn a fraction of what Senators do. Carlisle agreed with Sigman and Loutey that Senate should wait for data from SBWRC. Mirza, Spillane, and Perez were in favor of provisional approval.
Sigman introduced a motion to put aside a portion of student body funds until the SBWRC report; if a report was not issued by the end of the semester, the money would be paid to Honor Council retroactively. Loutey repeated Calvert-Warren’s claim that the only reason that Senate was engaged in the issue was because Moore was a member of Honor Council. Vice Treasurer Johannes Harkins ’14 argued that other students would demand wage increases as well. Spillane said his “slippery slope” argument was invalid. Loutey said she could imagine other students feeling they were being treated unfairly for not being considered. Mirza gave Quest Editors as an example.
Harkins argued that Senate may absorb the duties of SBWRC if it began deciding issues of wage increases. Michael Zhao ’14 agreed with Loutey and Calvert-Warren that it appeared that Senate was considering the issue because of Moore’s past membership on Honor Council. Harkins defended Moore, arguing that he could only raise matters he knew to be problems. Perez said Senate should do what it sees fit without “pandering to politics,” and that she was not opposed to retroactive payment. Loutey said Senate needed to be equitable with its wage increases. The issue was finally tabled.
Senate then discussed raising the wages of the Appeals Board appointee from nothing to sixty-five dollars a month. Moore said that the matter fell under Senate’s jurisdiction as it was creating a paid position and not increasing the wages of an existing paid position. Carlisle said the wage should not be paid monthly because the Appeals Board doesn’t always meet in a given month. Moore noted it would be illegal to pay on a case-by-case basis. The issue was tabled. Hintz then gave his testimony on the Paradox.
After two hours, Senate postponed the final agenda item, giving Renn Fayre Czars a debit card, until their closed executive session Sunday. The motion to adjourn was passed, and Harkins and Rodriguez left the Student Union, rejoicing about whiffleball all the way.