Honoraria Discussion Inflames Senate


Gwendolyn Wu
Campus Beat Reporter

Some University of California, Santa Barbara students are unhappy with the Associated Students Senate’s A Bill to Reform Honoraria for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 academic years. The bill is intended to curb problems with what senators feel is an excessive amount of honoraria. The bill passed, but not without controversy.

The Office of the Internal Vice President and Senate are allowed to reform honoraria every winter quarter of an even year. Under this bill, honoraria would be capped at $200 for appointed officials, $350 for those serving as chairs and $400 for senators. College of Engineering Senator Sara Maroofi and Off-Campus Senator Louis Mariano sought to redefine honoraria, stipends and how much is necessary to pay students who serve in these capacities.

Honoraria is defined as the amount an appointed or elected official in A.S. is granted following the completion of their duties every quarter. A.S. Legal Code states that it is intended to serve as a reward to honor their work. There are many student officials, as A.S. has over 30 boards, commissions and units (BCUs) and other entities that, this year, manage $9,716,416 in student fees. Students pay $185.49 of lock-in fees into the Association each quarter, according to the A.S. 2015-2016 budget.

In the past, the same debate has taken different forms — students work not for pay, but to serve, versus if they are grossly underpaid for their work. The same arguments played out in the 2011-2012 A.S. Legislative Council over whether a student’s honorarium should be a reliable source of income. They also discussed whether BCU honoraria should come from each group’s respective budget rather than a fixed amount, and whether it should be treated as a reward or payment.

One key issue that has been raised in the past is if BCUs do the same amount of work across each entity. Some BCUs feel as if they put more hours into their work than others do, and represent a larger portion of the population’s needs, and as a result, would request more honoraria.

“BCUs know they came to work not to get paid,” On-Campus Senator and second-year political science major Mercedes Rodriguez said. “What are you going to use that money for besides extra stuff? It’s not going to pay half of your rent for the month.”

Rodriguez’s comment refers to previous arguments that honoraria serves as a way to pay rent or miscellaneous living fees toward the end of the quarter. With some BCU chairs and officials serving in multiple capacities or working part-time jobs, it is possible that honoraria and stipends pay for living expenses.

Mariano, a third-year political science major, stated his concerns that fees used for honoraria could be better spent funding programs that already struggle with funding, but are directly for the benefit of the students.

Maroofi, a fourth-year mechanical engineering major, proposed that BCUs look into stipending over honoraria to gain greater control over their finances. A key issue with stipends that may sway BCUs’ decisions is that it is taxed, while honoraria is not, and could cause problems for the Association, which happened when the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) raised suspicions about honoraria reform in 2012.

Representatives from BCUs present stated that they had not been consulted about their thoughts on the matter by the authors of the bill, and only The Bottom Line was aware that this bill was in the works. Mariano stated that all documents were public, but he did not reach out to any specific BCU. If so, this would violate A.S. Legal Code Article 11, Section 2, Clause A, which states that recommendations for changes to the by-laws, such as honoraria, that may affect any BCU must have written or oral communication with all parties involved — including the chairs of each entity.

Senators showed concern about how this affects the autonomy of many organizations in determining how much they make. According to Off-Campus Senator and Finance & Business Committee Chair Jerel Constantino, the chairs of two A.S. entities make more than the proposed cap at the moment, Queer Commission and The Bottom Line.

Off-Campus Senator and second-year political science and Asian American studies double major Akshaya Natarajan was vocally in opposition of this bill.

“I think this is an extremely dangerous precedent to set by passing something so monumentally effective on so many different entities of A.S. without consulting with the chairs,” Natarajan said. “If you haven’t reached out to chairs one by one, which I think is actually the most fair process for something that is so invasive into these entities … I’m sorry, but chairs don’t read our minutes, they don’t read our legislation, and it’s a matter of fact. We barely read their minutes, so why would they read our legislation?”

Natarajan, who serves as a liaison for The Bottom Line, pleaded with the Senate to table the bill to reach out to the chairs. The Senate failed to revisit the bill toward the end of the meeting, and Natarajan stated that she would look into amending Legal Code so that honoraria would be discussed more frequently.

“I agree that it is unfair to the other BCUs that some boards get higher honoraria than others, but like some of you said, it’s a reward and not a paid job,” said Leah Hardenbrook, a fourth-year psychology major who serves as Queer Commission’s Internal Coordinator. “That should be proportional to the budgets that we have. QComm is fortunate enough to have a lock-in and a huge budget right now, and a certain proportion of that should go toward honoraria. It’s not necessarily fair comparatively with BCUs, but internally within our organization it makes sense.”

While the bill passed, it seems as if BCUs will be working with Associated Students in the near future to determine how they should be paid. According to Legal Code, honoraria can only be reformed every winter quarter of an even year.

An earlier version of this article mistakenly attributed quotes by Leah Hardenbrook and Jan Cenon, due to a miscommunication between the two sources and the author during the meeting. The Bottom Line regrets the error, which has been corrected above.


  1. Students: Do you think it’s fair that groups who receive a lock-in from you (those referendums that promise bigger and better events for a few extra bucks a quarter), should receive higher honorarium than groups who don’t? Do you think the priority of your student fees (hitting close to $200) is to pay for the volunteer work that student leaders dedicate themselves to? This, I believe, is what this issue is about.

    Seeing that the primary objective of these reforms is to streamline honoraria for all BCCs in order to prioritize funding for services and events that ALL students use, there shall be a faithful attempt at consulting the larger student body regarding this issue (a survey).

    My guiding principle, as this Senate and the entire association should, is the Strategic Plan. That was the last time this association made a faithful effort at reaching out to all of the students. There are no instances about the need for higher honorarium on there. There are however, multiple instances where students say that they are paying way too much for what they are getting. No one is taking any BCU’s money. It is simply a cap on the highest honorariums- all funds go directly back to the BCU’s account to do the great work that they do. No one is also stopping BCUs from appointing more officers with the money they would save.

    The bureaucratic process assumes that all parties involved know of what is happening. That is why this bill went through two different bodies, three times, over two weeks, and was sent through three list-serv. We can all adhere better to our positions if we read the minutes coming in, as required by our position descriptions.
    My only concern with this is that it seems that some liaisons didn’t do a good job at communicating with their BCUs. That’s a failure at their part, and it’s a position requirement that was not fulfilled. Their honoraria should be docked.

    I have papers due this week- I’ve been planning my quarter for this week to be used exclusively for those papers. Frankly, I’m not looking forward to going to a redundant meeting if the discussion will only be about why the BCU’s Chairs deserve the extra $50-$100 of honoraria, simply because their budget (funded by a lock-in) permits it. I want to hear what the student outside of AS thinks. I want to know if they think they are getting their $200 of fees worth from us. That will be the only thing that will get me to postpone my papers and consider changing our minds (that we voted twice on in the last meeting). And in terms of representation, I don’t think that rhetoric is productive. We have a lot of work to do, and this Senate should be proud of that. Elections are coming up in a few weeks- let the students decide who represents who.

    It’s easy to understand why those (fiscally) affected by this would be concerned. But AS is in a bubble, right? Why don’t we ask the students (outside of AS) what they think about some groups receiving more honoraria? This is particularly concerning since there is a correlation between groups who receive a lock-in funding receive higher honorariums than groups who don’t .

    There are 450+ honorarium recipients, I think a faithful survey of the students we represent would include 450 responses. It should include a field asking for their perm number. That way, we won’t be getting a double response from those who receive honorarium (conflict of interest).

    • “Do you think it’s fair that groups who receive a lock-in from you (those referendums that promise bigger and better events for a few extra bucks a quarter), should receive higher honorarium than groups who don’t? Do you think the priority of your student fees (hitting close to $200) is to pay for the volunteer work that student leaders dedicate themselves to? This, I believe, is what this issue is about.”
      — do you think it’s fair that AS Senate receives an honorarium when they don’t do anything for the students? don’t devalue the work that BCU’s have done, senator.

      “That was the last time this association made a faithful effort at reaching out to all of the students.”
      — you did not reach out to any BCU’s before making the decision. none of you attend BCU meetings even though it is in legal code that you should.

      Case and point: you do not represent us, none of you represented us to begin with. we do not have faith in the association. you are not changing any current


      • Senators spend hours every Wednesday discussing all of the actions and minutes on the table. We are elected to make decisions and that is what we have done. Personally, I spend countless hours of my week to Senate work. The last meeting lasted from 6:30 PM – 1 AM. Aside from that, the Committee that I am Chairing (F&B, and receive no honoraria from) have 3+ hours weekly to allocate funds. This week’s meeting and budget hearings took over 15 hours. We were not extra paid honoraria for that (as it should). I did not criticize your work. In fact, I would like to commend all of the BCUs for their work. More students should see the bottomline of their fees, and this bill does exactly that by allocating more funds to your groups for operation and events.

        I am a chair of a BCU and I’m well aware of this, as all Chairs should’ve been. Again, this was brought up multiple times through the bureaucratic process. There was no failure in transparency here. Might I add that this was going to pass through consent until I objected to have a discussion on this, and then everyone realized what it was going to do (so did people even read the bill to begin with? They had two weeks). Here’s the bottomline. We were elected to do this job and have been doing so for the past year, and we intend to do so until we complete our term. I’m sorry if you don’t think that, but your energy will be better spent making that case during elections.

  2. Students are paid for volunteer and elective office work? Why?

    They volunteered, or stood for election. And they will no doubt be using these activities on their resumes and grad school applications. Why take student fees and use them for this?

  3. This article is being sold as news, but is clearly an op-ed. Where is the other side or variety of sources? Seems like the same people talking with biased reporting from The Bottom Line, as it nearly always does in issues regarding Associated Students, because it is affected by this measure. What a waste of money for a student newspaper.

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