The Quest | The Free Press of Reed College

Labors of (Free?) Love: A look a student body wages, continued

Student Body positions, such as on Student Body Senate, on Judicial Board, and on Honor Council, are a confusing mix of volunteer work, academics and wage labor, as discussed in last week’s Quest. Although many important positions are paid far less than minimum wage, there are striking disparities between the effective wages of different positions. As shown in the table below, the average Senator earns an effective wage of about $3.50 per hour, while Honor Council members earn about half as much per hour. Meanwhile, the Student Body President earns almost $6 per hour.

 

Mike Brody, Vice President and Dean of Student Services, thinks that “there are compelling arguments” in favor of raising the wages of Student Body workers such as those on Honor Council, J-Board and Senate. First, he notes that low pay for these positions may potentially “exclude all but those students who don’t really need the money,” making it harder for Reed to achieve diversity in important Student Body positions. As Brody sees it, this is a problem both for those excluded and for “the community as a whole, as we sacrifice the opportunity to benefit from the contributions these students might otherwise have made.” Secondly, Brody is concerned that low wages may cause students to think that the college doesn’t value the work they do in these positions.

However, Brody doesn’t believe that low pay for student body positions is “the primary limiting factor” in increasing student involvement. Neither does he think that raising Student Body wages would risk attracting students driven by an interest only in the money.

Continuing from last week’s report on the effective wages of J-Board and of the managers of the Paradox, below is an examination of wages for other Student Body positions.

Senate

According to Senator Sarah Carlisle ‘13, who is in her fourth semester as a Senator, a rough estimate for the amount of work done by the average Senator in the average week is about 10 hours. Using this estimate, Senators earn an average of about $3.50 per hour. The exact workload, however, appears to vary greatly by the amount of responsibilities each Senator has. As chair of Appointments Committee, Carlisle says that she worked “15-20 hours a week, usually on the 20 side if not more.” (The chair of Appointments Committee earns an extra $25 per month.) Mirza asserts that he is currently putting in “slightly less than 25 hours a week” as a Senator, and Senator John Iselin ’14 (the current chair of Appointments Committee) says that he works “18-22 hours or so per week.”

The Student Body President earns a higher stipend than Senators at $285 per month. Former Student Body President Nora McConnell-Johnson ’12 estimates that she worked approximately 12 hours per week, meaning an hourly wage of almost $6, but adds that the workload was much higher for the creation of the Sexual Misconduct Board.

The Senate secretary actually earns more than most Senators, at $150 per month. Alex Arpaia ’14, the current Senate secretary, estimates that she works “anywhere from 3-4 hours on a light week to 6-8 in a heavy week.” This time is spent taking minutes for open Senate meetings and for executive sessions, as well as editing those minutes. Assuming an average of 5 hours per week, the Senate secretary earns an effective wage of $7.50. This is much higher than the estimated wage for Senators; however, taking minutes is arguably a more skilled task, and in addition the secretary has no formal power within Student Body government.

Current and former treasurers and Vice Presidents did not respond to requests for information and comment. The Vice President earns $250 per month, while the three treasurers earn $180, $280, and $380 per month according to seniority. Carlisle believes that “a very hardworking Senator does as much work as a very hardworking Head Treasurer.” If this is true, the Head Treasurer is paid much more per hour than a Senator.

Honor Council

Honor Council’s wages recently stirred controversy when several current and ex-Senators objected to a pay raise for Honor Council before the report of the Student Body Wage Review Board, despite the board’s slowness in issuing recommendations. Two knowledgeable sources, who preferred to remain anonymous because of the controversy, gave separate but similar assessments of the time commitment of Honor Council. One estimated that the three Honor Council voting members work about 13 hours per week while other Honor Council members work approximately 7 hours per week; the other gave respective estimates of 14 and 6.5 hours.

Since Honor Council non-voting members are paid $45 per month and Honor Council voting members receive $90 per month, this translates into a mere $1.73 per hour, far lower than other Student Body positions. McConnell-Johnson calls particular attention to Honor Council’s low wages: “I have friends on Honor Council and I’ve seen how hard they work and it’s appalling how little they’re compensated for it.”

Student Union Manager

The SU manager doesn’t receive a paycheck, but he or she does get to live in the SU’s apartment for free. Current SU Manager Shawn Flanigan ’12 says that although it is difficult to calculate exactly how much he works, he would estimate about 10 hours per week. This includes maintenance of the SU and a variety of meetings and other tasks. Flanigan thinks that the compensation for the job is adequate, although he jokes that “a monthly stipend to be used for a supply of noise cancelling ear-plugs would be appreciated.”

It is difficult to estimate how much the SU manager’s free lodging is worth: On one hand, dorm rooms on campus are expensive ($2,875 per semester in 2011-12), but “living in the SU is no picnic,” as Flanigan notes. One possible valuation would be $350 per month, in which case the SU manager earns a respectable $8.75 per hour.

SIN Webmasters

The SIN webmasters get a monthly stipend of $100. Both of the current webmasters, Lizzi Lindboe ’14 and Tom LaMarre, estimate that they work an average of about 10 hours per month, or about 2.5 hours per week. This amount changes greatly over the semester—according to LaMarre, “the most work-intensive times are during elections and funding polls,” while the rest of the semester is much less busy.

Using these estimates, the SIN webmasters’ earn an effective wage of $10 per hour, much higher than other student body workers. Given that the job requires technical skills, Lindboe thinks that “the stipend is pretty fair,” but LaMarre points out that “web development and administration on this level in the ‘real world’ is quite a lot more costly than this.”

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