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.