The student government leader’s resolution to pay DASB senators for their work shows just how self-indulgent and out of touch they are with De Anza College’s financial reality.
During their May 15 meeting, DASB senators voted unanimously to endorse a resolution requesting to provide a quarterly stipend of up to $930 to senators and $1,200 to officers.
With 16 to 30 senators including nine officer positions, estimated annual costs for this stipend range from $51,930 to $90,990.
DASB senators advocated for the resolution citing increased opportunities to better represent De Anza, equitable representation, better accountability and that other colleges in the local area paid their student body senators.
However, the senate’s argument was partially misleading. Many of the colleges mentioned did not provide stipends. Foothill and Las Positas College provide merit-based scholarships that are significantly less generous than what DASB senators are asking for.
And Mission College only paid a stipend out for one quarter before taking it away due to budget constraints.
Senators should not be paid because their positions were awarded not on merit, but by an election with voter turnout as low as 3%.
Senators are screened for neither the maturity necessary for such a leadership position, nor the commitment expected for the job.
In fact, the controversies over DASB senators’ inappropriate group chat conduct during a June 6, 2018 senate meeting resulted in the dismissal of the president and two chairs.
And at the beginning of this quarter, 10 senators including the president and vice-president resigned. That is almost 50% of the elected senate gone.
Although the idea behind the stipend is well-intentioned, there is no guarantee this will create a more diverse, qualified and dedicated senate.
The stipend may increase the senators’ accountability and commitment to attend their shared governance meetings and committee meetings, but what tangible benefit will the student body receive from this? And is this truly the best use of $50,000 to $90,000 every year?
Senators and officers spend 60 to 80 hours per quarter attending meetings and office hours, with occasional field hours, said Student Trustee on the Foothill-De Anza Board of Trustees Genevieve Kolar.
Senators dedicating time to attend meetings every week is admirable, but sitting in a chair does not necessarily equal productive work.
In fact, many senators rarely speak up or provide any meaningful input during senate meetings. Only a few recurring senators do participate diligently.
Instead of advocating for themselves, the DASB senate should refocus its attention on more pressing issues that are affecting the student body.
The on-going budget crisis of $7.6 million in cuts resulting from a significant drop in enrollment over the past few years has severely affected hundreds of students, staff and faculty.
Many programs such as tennis, paralegal studies, dance, the world languages and massage therapy have been recommended for elimination or downsizing.
Dozens of positions, including instructional faculty, classified staff and other administrative roles have been slashed, causing chaos and uncertainty for many community members.
De Anza is making significant cuts everywhere and many programs funded by the DASB senate itself such as the honors program, math performance success program and the tutorial and academic skills center either did not get the amount they requested for 2019-2020 or received a smaller budget than the previous year.
Under such circumstances, it is not appropriate for an inefficient, undedicated student government to reward themselves financially.
The resolution argues that the stipend will legitimize equity, but $50,000 per 16 students every year is a disproportionately high amount of money relative to many of the individual programs the senate funds.
DASB senators need to step away from this resolution and reevaluate the context in which they are asking for this large sum of money.