ASUCSD Senate Increases Salary, Then Rescinds Raise Over Transparency Concerns

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The 2018-2019 ASUCSD Senate was announced in April. Connor Gorry / The Triton

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Late last night, Associated Students of UC San Diego (ASUCSD) Senate voted to give itself a raise without any public input before later nullifying the raise over transparency concerns.

At around 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, ASUCSD Senate voted to raise Senator salaries from $20 a week to $30 a week after over an hour of debate during the Senate’s Summer Budget approval meeting. This vote occurred with no public input nor consideration of constituent opinions. During Summer Budget meetings, ASUCSD Senate approves the budget for Summer and Fall Quarter Weeks 0–5. In Fall Quarter, the Senate will approve the finalized budget for the 2018–19 school year.

“At tonight’s meeting an important discussion was had regarding stipends in AS,” said Campus Wide Senator Emma Potter in a statement to The Triton. “I was not in favor of raising Senator stipends tonight on the grounds of needing to consult our constituents first.”

The members opposing a vote to increase stipends emphasized the need for transparency in the way ASUCSD makes decisions, especially a decision by Senators to increase their own salaries. There is currently an $80 discrepancy between the salaries of Senators and Associate Vice Presidents (AVPs). The ASUCSD President is paid $300 per week.

Almost all Senators, AVPs, and executive members agreed that the pay discrepancy among members should be addressed, but disagreed over whether to resolve it now or after getting public input.

“I do hope that the amount all the AS members make will be made very clear this week on the AS website. I will be reaching out to see how we can get their stipend front and center on the page instead of just hidden in the budget,” said Campus Wide Senator Daniela Salazar Bernardi. “[Not posting salaries on the website] is also a tactic used to make sure we do not realize that we are only being paid $600 per year, compared to the President’s $12,000 per year, or even the second lowest positions, which are AVP’s who make $3,200 per year.”

After discussion for well over an hour, Arts and Humanities Senator Johnny Echavarria called for a vote to increase the weekly stipend for ASUCSD Senators by 50 percent without constituent input. Senator Potter was the only voting member to raise an objection and argued that the process needs to be done with transparency. This vote passed 7–3, with many of the 19 voting members abstaining.

“I don’t think members thought this was going to pass,” Campus Wide Senator Emma Potter later told The Triton.

After the vote was approved, Marshall College Senator Brandon Milledge introduced a motion to cut the salaries of executive members: VPs, President, and the Financial Controller, to make salaries more equitable. This motion died without a vote.

More discussion took place about the decision and its implications, mainly about accountability to constituents and the extreme difficulty in returning stipends to $20 during the Fall Quarter Week 5 Budget Revise meeting. If the Senate changes its mind, any AS member affected would have their contracts rescinded and would have to go through the process of being rehired by the university.

”I think in the future for any changes of stipends, I feel like we kind of settled this, but we should be talking to our constituents before making this kind of decision,” said Eleanor Roosevelt College Senator Spencer Lee after the increase passed. “Our constituents have no idea that this is happening; instead they’re going to find out about it probably from reading The Triton, or by reading some kind of news, or through us.”

After discussion, Senators who voted for the increase called for a revote. The salary increase failed the revote by a 2–14 vote.

“The conversation we had tonight was productive. The senator positions are extremely valuable and compensation for their time and energy is important to talk about. I am glad that senators decided to rethink their original move to raise their stipends at this meeting,” said ASUCSD President Kiara Gomez in a statement to The Triton. “As these are student fees we are discussing, it is crucial to consult students and acquire feedback from them before making that decision.”

Ethan Coston is an Assistant News Editor and Lead Student Government Reporter for The Triton. You can follow him @Ethan4Books.