The Quest | The Free Press of Reed College

Op-Ed: Senate Too Slow on Student Body Wages

Senate has demonstrated that it remains a sluggish bureaucracy. Student Body Wage Review Committee has failed to deliver a report on student body wages by the time it said it would. Not only do Honor Council members effectively make $1.73 an hour for their work, according to Quest research, but the Senate Secretary effectively makes $7.50 an hour, which is still more than twice as much as a Senator’s effective $3.50 per hour wage.

I don’t mean to demonize the position of Senate Secretary—far from it—only to point out that Honor Council members, if not other positions as well, probably deserve a pay raise.

I criticized Senate in an opinion piece in February for failing to pass a motion doubling Honor Council’s pay. The majority of Senate, though not all of it, argued that it would be wiser to wait for a report from Student Body Wage Review Committee to make a decision. Ex-Senator Jenny Calvert-Warren said she hoped the Committee would have a report ready by the end of the quarter. No such luck.

If no action is taken on Student Body wages, low-paying Student Body positions will be inaccessible to some students and never truly representative of the Student Body.

Senator Dana Loutey responded to my opinion piece with her own, in which she argued that all Student Body positions are underpaid and that Student Body Wage Review Committee exists to ensure that the limited Student Body funds we have are distributed equally to those underpaid positions.

I agree with Dana’s assessment, but only in principle. There are issues Senate should deal with slowly, and others that Senate should expedite. For example, The Quest is currently seeking to reform the process by which Quest Editors are selected. That, a change to a Reed institution nearly as old as Reed itself, should be debated at length by Senate and negotiated over the course of several weeks, if not months. If, however, Senate knows Honor Council to be underpaid, perhaps even less paid than Quest Editors, raising Honor Council pay should be done as quickly as possible. Even JBoard was forced to look for a wage increase from the administration after the Student Body Wage Review Committee did nothing.

Now, some Senators might disagree with me and say that they didn’t how underpaid Honor Council is. To those making that argument, I would say this: Don’t give the task of reporting on student body wages to a slow-moving committee that has already failed to deliver any results whatsoever in its two semesters of existence and isn’t even listed as a committee on SIN. Expedite the process. Do it yourself.

Organizations at Reed, be they Senate or The Quest, have more flexibility than their extramural counterparts like the U.S. Government or The New York Times. The Quest doesn’t have to pigeonhole its editors into either photography, layout, or copyediting, and Senate doesn’t have to pigeonhole itself into only waiting for committee reports to filter in.

Senate has all the authority it needs to be an agile legislative body, and it has already shown glimmers of such agility. Senate responded almost immediately to student upset after the recent student arrests by facilitating discussion with Community Safety, and it quickly helped shoot down a plan by Community Safety to have Student Patrol Officers report AOD violations.

Senate needs to move on Student Body wages before the semester is over. At stake is the accessibility of Student Body positions to students who might otherwise have to choose a better paying job, and, in the case of The Quest, the quality of work performed by those positions. I know one editor this semester and many others in the past who have decided not to stay on because of low pay (by one Queditor’s estimate, about $1.50 an hour).

Agility is just as important to a legislative body as deliberation. Senate should know when to send decisions to committee and when sidestep Byzantine procedure.

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