“Being CSA President was consuming, to be honest,” former President Anesu Masakura ’20 told the Carletonian. Last year, Masakura introduced a proposal for executive pay after including it in his campaign for election to the Carleton Student Association (CSA), Carleton’s student government. CSA has considered executive pay a number of times over the last decade, and is now proposing it in order to make executive roles more accessible.
The new proposal advocates pay for the positions of CSA President, Vice President, Treasurer and Communications Officer. The policy would take effect next year, after the conclusion of current student officers’ terms.
Masakura said that most of his time as CSA President was spent writing emails to the student body or fellow Senators, attending required and nonrequired meetings with campus administrators, crafting the agenda for Senate meetings, reading through Senate reports, attending meetings with other executives or Senators and figuring out how to address complex issues on campus.
“Because I took my job seriously, I would talk to other folks on campus—administrators, students, or former CSA presidents,” he said.
The typical workweek of a CSA executive varies. “It depends on what’s going on with students,” said current President Andrew Farias ’21. “But I want to say it’s 20 hours at minimum that I’m doing work, although I also feel like at times in the term, I’m working closer to 30 or even 40, a full work week,” he said.
Brittany Dominguez ’21, the current Vice President, agreed, saying that her other experiences leading clubs on campus pale in comparison to being CSA Vice President in terms of workload. The responsibilities of the Vice President include chairing the Budget Committee, which oversees allocations of funds to student organizations. “There are some weeks that it is about 15-20 hours, and then there are weeks that it’s about 40 hours,” Dominguez said.
Farias and Dominguez said that the goal of executive pay is to make top CSA positions more accessible.
“I introduced executive pay because I recognized that it takes so much time to be a CSA president, Vice President, or Treasurer,” Masakura said. “The time commitment is exacerbated if you are working another job on campus.” Farias and Dominguez both work campus jobs in addition to their roles in student government, as did Masakura last year.
Masakura said the lack of paid positions in CSA bars students from participating in government because they think they cannot afford to work what is essentially two jobs on campus. “We thought it would be a barrier to entry for students, especially low-income students who can’t afford to not have a campus job,” he said.
There are two ways Carleton student representatives could conceivably get paid. One option is to pay executives through CSA funds, which come from vending and the student activity fee. Currently, funds from the student activity fee are re-directed toward other student organizations and events of the Student Activities Office like Midwinter Ball.
“Our goal has always been to try to get the college to pay us,” said Dominguez. The recent proposal asks the College to pay a stipend to executives, which again would increase the accessibility of the position: some students with need-based scholarships like the Gates Scholarship can’t work over a certain number of hours on campus. Because stipends are more flexible than hourly pay, a stipend would be less likely to prevent students from running based on scholarship requirements.
There is precedent for stipend-based pay for student government at other colleges. Masakura’s student government created an extensive list of colleges and universities, showing whether and how each institution paid its student government.
While not all institutions pay their student governments, some use stipends or treat student government positions like on-campus jobs. St. Olaf, for example, pays 15 student members a $2,000 yearly stipend.
Funding seems to be the largest obstacle to passing the most recent executive pay proposal.
“We discussed some kind of stipend from the College administration, but that was shut down by the college even before my time, so that was a non-starter,” Masakura said.
Farias and Dominguez have met the same resistance from the college. “The reasoning was just, “R.A.s are the only ones we use a stipend for.’ We felt like there was room to move that around a bit,” Farias said.
The college has also questioned why CSA executives should be paid while other student organization leaders are not. “Our argument in response has been that a lot of the work that we do is, yes, on behalf of the students, but it’s also work that would have to get done one way or another.
We do work that the college would have to pay someone to do if CSA didn’t do it,” Dominguez said, citing examples like the allocation of money to student organizations and appointment of students to college committees like the Presidential Search Committee.
What stalled the proposal during Masakura’s time as President was more philosophical debates about executive pay. Although Masakura supported the idea, he noted, “There were also compelling arguments for the other side. Once we start paying executives, where do we stop? Should you also pay our Senators, or the editors of the Carletonian?”
Masakura said that Senators also worried pay could change the spirit of student government. “People may start running for the money instead of running because they want to serve… We’ve been in existence in different forms for the past 90 years, and never have paid CSA executives because the position has been seen as some kind of service to the student body,” he said.
Another consideration is how pay could change the dynamic between CSA and the college in terms of oversight.
If CSA executives are paid by the college, to what extent will they be employees of the college? “Independence allows us to critique the administration when we should,” Masakura explained.
This year, there appears to be more uniform support among Senators for executive pay. The main concern of Senators, according to meeting notes, is simply not wanting to take money from CSA to pay the executives.
Masakura also clarified that, during his term, “there were fundamental differences among Senators of whether we should do this, but there was no doubt that CSA executives do a lot of work compared to most of their Senators. There was no question about that.”
CSA would like to get student input on the idea of executive pay, so there will be a survey in the coming weeks to gauge student opinions on the topic.
“We aren’t doing this for our own benefit, but we see that this could benefit others, and that’s really why we want to push for this,” said Farias.