The decision of Student Government (SG) to pay its new appointees faced backlash from students, generating an online petition to hold a referendum to reverse the decision.
Several days after a Maroon article described the new Executive Committee positions and the issuing of executive orders by SG President Tyler Kissinger to establish these positions, third-year Kevin Hasenfang created a petition to bring about a referendum on the stipends. Kissinger, however, defended the action, saying that it is simply a continuation of policies that have been practiced for years prior.
As of 4:45 p.m. on October 20, Hasenfang said the petition had received over 525 of the necessary 717 signatures to force the referendum. He predicted that the petition would be delivered to the Elections and Rules Committee in the next few days, at which point the referendum must take place within a month.
Kissinger said any resulting referendum would be non-binding.
“Ultimately this makes no amendment to our governing document and so therefore just has no enforcement power,” he said. Kissinger went on to say that his slate would certainly consider the results when making their decision, though he is unsure whether the petition itself was legal as it was done online, and the Constitution does not make it clear as to whether or not online petitions ought to be accepted. The copy available on its website does not specify that petitions must be in print.
College Council (CC) voted in favor of the appointment of the new Executive Committee positions at Assembly last Thursday, and the Graduate Council voted in favor yesterday, finalizing the appointment of the positions.
Kissinger cited historical precedent, saying that the only thing that the executive orders change is that they make public for the student body actions by the Executive Slate that have always been made in the past.
“Honestly I just imagined them as a tool of transparency, rather than the opposite of that—a tool of despotism, which unfortunately seems to be how they were interpreted,” he said.
In the release Kissinger says the purpose of the stipends is so the positions are accessible to all students regardless of financial situation.
Some CC representatives have disagreed with the idea of stipends.
“There should not be any stipends through Student Government, especially not for undefined positions created through executive order,” third-year CC representative Mike Viola wrote in an e-mail. Though he said SG pays its secretaries, that is to ensure meeting minutes are complete and are impartial, whereas these positions serve “at the pleasure of the President.”
Both Viola and Michael Meng, a first year CC representative, plan to force a vote on the stipends in the next Assembly meeting if the petition does not get enough signatures. Viola says he does not expect the stipends to be installed without a vote, but that CC could easily reverse the stipends if that were the case.
Kissinger said that the Student Assembly does not have authority on whether or not the new positions should be funded.
“I would argue that Assembly as a whole doesn’t have the authority to change how the administrative budget is allocated because it is managed by the Executive Committee, and that is the precedent that has been set up for years,” he said. “Just like how we’ve never voted, the Assembly has never approved funding for, like, food at leadership conversations or for airport shuttles. It doesn’t make sense for them to approve this funding.”
These stipends are based in a series of executive orders that Kissinger released over the summer. So far, only the executive orders for the directors of technology, finance and communication have been posted on the SG website.
Kissinger puts the total cost for these stipends at $4,200 per year, which is less than 0.2-percent of the annual budget. The chief of staff will receive $500 and the directors of communications, finance and new ventures will receive $300 each per quarter. The stipend for the director of technology has yet to be decided, Kissinger said, but it will not amount to more than $300 as well and will be released as soon as it is decided on. Kissinger said there is no timeline on when the stipends would go into effect.