The Student Government (SG) Senate passed a bill Tuesday night that allows senators to receive $150 or gifts of the same value if they work exceptionally hard.
The specifics of how the program will be implemented or how it will operate are unclear, however, as they must be approved by the Senate in order for the gift program to take effect.
As it stands, the bill requires that senators fill out a report every month of what they’ve done and how many hours they have worked. Senators will have to write a two-page reflection paper each month, explaining what they have done and how it helped the University. Senators also have to explain why they think they deserve to receive the cash, called an “incentive,” by supporters. The senators must also be in good standing with the Senate, meaning they must attend Senate meetings and contribute to discussion regularly. The incentive will be paid by Activity and Service (A&S) fees, and will be divided once a semester during fall and spring, but not during the summer.
“They have to prove they’ve done work,” said Senate Pro Tempore Nicole Randazzo and author of the bill.
The senators hand in their reports to the Senate Executive Committee (SENEX), which chooses who’s eligible to receive the incentive. There is no cap on how many senators can be chosen so as long as they are not part of the SENEX or the A&S recommendation committee (ASRC). Senators part of SENEX or ASRC are ineligible because they hold paid positions.
Randazzo said that the bill would improve the student body because it will encourage senators to go above and beyond their obligations.
Senate President Nathan Davison said the monetary part of the bill is just a byproduct of what the Senate wants to accomplish – to get their senators working harder and to become more involved.
“We’re using the incentive as a carrot,” Ralph Reid said. “It doesn’t have to be money.”
He also said it would generate a better ability to understand what the students want.
“It will help streamline things,” he said.
The bill passed with a close vote of 11-8 with two abstentions. During a prolonged debate, senators expressed various opinions about the legislation.
Senator Daniel Shelnutt said he felt this is a misallocation of student money and that it is not fair to the students.
“If a senator is here for something other than the inner drive to help the University, then they’re here for the wrong reasons,” he said.
When asked for his vote, he responded: “Student’s money? No.”
Sen. Charles Sherrard agreed and said that other things can be done with student money.
“We should be here for the students,” Sherrard said. “There’s a lot better things we can do with the money than give it to ourselves.”
Sen. Sheldon Tomlinson, as SG veteran of two years, said that he thinks the incentive will help keep senators in SG and improve SG has a whole.
“Anything to motivate us will drive a better Senate,” he said. “We’ll see improved progress and improve effectiveness.”
Sen. Cordell Chavis opposed the bill because he felt that senators should be here for the students, not for payment or incentives.
“The government likes to pay themselves for stupid things,” he said. “Think about how many student organizations could you fund instead of giving this money to senators.”
Sen. Benjamin Brown said that he supported the bill because senators need something else to “push them along.”
“It’s something we need for the life of the Senate,” he said.
Senator Peter Baker, however, felt that if senators are motivated by something other than their desire to help students, then they are motivated for the wrong reasons.
“The desire to do something would be misplaced,” he said.
Chavis said he felt that the bill would not be received well by the student body.
“I’m a little upset,” he said. “We’re probably going to have another Facebook group created (about SG).”
Although he sponsored the bill, Reid agreed with what Chavis said that, as the sponsor, he is unsure of the student reaction.
“Even I don’t think it will (be accepted),” he said. The bill, however, needs to be presented in the right light, he said.