This year, the Carleton Student Association (CSA) has reintroduced a motion that would give pay to their executive leaders. This idea has been proposed before, but its benefits and drawbacks have proven difficult to balance, according to Student Body President Anesu Masakura ’20. Former Student Body President Walter Paul ’18 proposed this idea during Masakura’s freshman year, but due to complications, the motion was stalled.
Masakura charged a working group of CSA senators to do research on this issue and find out what other liberal arts colleges pay their student government executives. Whether the current proposal will ultimately pass remains undecided. “The Exec team does a lot of work, and it’s good that CSA is having this discussion,” said Hanah Diebold, Assistant Director of the Student Activities Office (SAO).
The CSA Secretary position has been a paid position for some time, constituting a maximum of 8 paid hours of work/week. If the executive positions were to become paid, they would follow a similar structure, said Masakura. “You are paying them the hourly wage at Carleton, which is $10.75” he said. Because CSA is a student governing organization that is independent of the college’s administration, it is unclear how the supervision and “employer-employee” dynamic will be implemented. Masakura said, “For CSA, who’s your supervisor? That gets tricky … SAO is there to help us, not to supervise us.” St. Olaf has paid their student body executives yearly stipends while other colleges have classified these positions as the equivalent of an on-campus job. Masakura said that Carleton has made clear that they do not want to pay their executives through stipends. “I don’t think that’s an option,” says Masakura.
If the motion passes, Masakura does not know what stance Carleton will take, but has stated that as of now he and his colleagues are wanting more information on this topic so they can raise a thoughtful discussion.
Masakura also expressed his concern over who will be eligible to attain the position of a CSA executive. At Carleton, many students do not qualify for campus jobs, whether that be for financial aid reasons or the Gates Scholarship. The Gates Scholarship is a financial award offered to help fund the collegiate education of students from minority demographics. Walter Paul, Masakura’s predecessor, was, in fact, a Gates Scholar. If CSA executives were to become paid, Masakura said that a discussion would need to be had regarding exceptions to this. “The money to pay the executives would come from the CSA budget,” said Masakura.
According to research being done by Carleton’s CSA, student government executive pay exists at select liberal arts colleges nationwide. For example, St. Olaf, Whitman, and Colorado College all offer select members of their student government a monthly, annual, or semester-based stipend. Many colleges argue that this is not only beneficial for the students occupying these executive positions, but also the leadership of the colleges. Masakura argued that by not paying CSA executives, many students at Carleton who might require financial assistance may not see any of these positions as attainable. He says that Carleton’s student government may be “losing talent.” Masakura explained that for the unpredictable and unregulated hours that he works as student body president on a weekly basis, it is like working two jobs, both as a peer leader and CSA Executive.
Considering the responsibilities that being a CSA Executive has, Diebold thinks “compensation for these positions could be justified and could allow students to focus on their CSA responsibilities, possibly without the worry of having to find additional employment on- or off-campus. As someone who has only recently started their work at Carleton, it has been very rewarding to see the current Exec team members in their roles. They take on and do so much, and if compensation for those in the role in the future helps take one worry off their shoulders, I think it is an option that should be considered.”
CSA Executive roles have been unpaid for the last 108 years, and participation has always been voluntary. Weighing this against pay, President Masakura said that “I think getting paid changes the meaning of the position.”
“It is good to pay your executives, but there are always other considerations,” Masakura continued. On this note, Masakura noted that deciding who to pay could be more challenging than simply drawing a line between the executive roles and the rest of CSA. “Another senator could say ‘I’m putting in 20 hours a week, why am I not getting paid for that?’”
“Getting paid definitely narrows the pool of people who can be executive leaders,” said Masakura. This speculation is founded upon challenges that arise for those receiving a Gates Scholarship, a highly-selective scholarship for exceptional minority students which affects their opportunity to attain campus jobs, as well as other students in similar situations. Given a student in this situation was to obtain an executive CSA role, Masakura said that making an exception could be problematic: “It’s tricky. If you are making exceptions, you might as well make them for everyone.”
As was previously mentioned, executive pay also entails strengthening the connection between campus administration and the CSA. Masakura explains that “I think pay changes the dynamics of our relationship with the administration.” While Masakura praises the administration, he further suggests that this increased connectivity may make CSA “an extension of the administration, of which we are not.”
When asked about the fairness of CSA executives receiving pay while other executives of student organizations do not, Masakura said, “I do think it’s fair to say that CSA is different from other organizations on campus; we actually charter (officially recogniz) and fund other student organizations on campus. Our focus is not confined to one activity; rather, we’re a representative student government that deals with all aspects of student life. Given the time Execs commit to making these things happen, some might see that as a justification for executive pay. I’m not using that as a justification for executive pay; I’m just saying we’re still in the talking stages and we haven’t decided what we’re going to do yet. But if someone were to bring up that concern, that’s how I’d respond to it.”
“CSA is a thoughtful student government,” said Masakura. Masakura himself would not benefit from this policy, as it would go into effect this coming fall at the earliest. Over the next few months, the CSA intends to continue researching and debating this topic: “The fact that we are doing research on other liberal arts institutions doing the same thing shows that we do try, and we want to do this right,’’ Masakura explains. Ultimately, Masakura believes that “If the cost, not limited to financial costs, of having a paid executive position is greater than the benefits, then we might as well stick with our current system.” Masakura intends to reach out to the student body for input on the matter, and Diebold agrees: “Once more details have been decided, I think it would be good to hear from the student body.”