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Stipend unnecessary for student government

Staff Editorial | Friday, October 31, 2008

After five weeks of controversy, the Saint Mary’s Board of Governance (BOG) finally approved the 2008-2009 Student Government Association (SGA) budget effectively allowing funds to be dispersed to clubs and organizations who have been waiting for their allotments since mid-September at their meeting Wednesday night.

At the heart of the controversy was a stipend allotted for the Executive Board, who also serve as the SGA budgeting committee and therefore designed the budget, in the amount of $20,000. This money was to come from the $160 each full-time student at the College pays for a student government fee along with tuition. After BOG continuously voted not to approve the budget, the Executive Board reduced the amount of the stipend and eventually removed it entirely.

Last year’s Executive Board was the first to take a monetary stipend in the amount of $40,000. The student body and many members of the 2007-2008 BOG did not know that this amount of money was being used to pay a stipend which amounted to salaries. This year’s Executive Board should be applauded for being forthcoming with their intentions to take a stipend, allowing the student body to voice their opinion and ultimately listening to them.

But why was this controversial stipend allowed to be a line item on the past two SGA budgets in the first place and why was the budget held up for so long?

It is very clear in the fact that there are checks and balances in place in the SGA Constitution that keep the Executive Board from having the final say on the budget.

A clause in the Constitution states that BOG has final approval of the budget after the budgeting committee approves it; however, they almost were not allowed to do so because the clause was not public knowledge. Had a concerned student not brought the clause to the attention of the Executive Board, the budget, using student funds for a salary, would have gone into effect for the year.

The Constitution does not stipulate whether or not the Executive Board can allocate funds for themselves; however, that does not explain why this practice started in the first place.

The students who would collect a stipend were unaware that they would be receiving a salary for their service to the student body when they ran for office or applied for their appointed positions.

They were told of the stipends after taking office and had to decide whether or not they would budget for the stipend as well. If they applied for the job with no intention of receiving a stipend, why did they decide to include it in the budget?

Had the stipend been approved this year, it would have changed the way student government functions at the College. While some students would still run for office because they love Saint Mary’s and want to give back to the student body, there would be others who would run solely because they would be receiving money.

The Executive Board clearly does a lot of work managing student government and planning events for the student body, but funding which is set aside for student government should be used for those events and activities instead of as a paycheck.