ASPSU might pay student senators

    In an effort to increase the accountability of student senators, student government is proposing that senators be given a stipend for the 2007-08 fiscal year.

    The current draft of the ASPSU 2007-08 budget states that senators will be paid $235 per month for fall, winter and spring term, but student body President Courtney Morse said that amount has been reduced to about $100 per month.    

    Jesse Bufton, Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU) vice president and student senate chair, said that there has been high turnover among student senators historically that, in part, sparked the idea for a student stipend. Despite having met for three out of four Monday senate meetings over the last month, some students feel that ASPSU should not be forced to convince senators to stay committed to their job with a stipend.

    ”I think people should be doing their jobs anyway without the money,” said former student senator Lindsey Craven.

    The student senate has failed to meet quorum all but six times since June because there were often too few senators on staff to reach the 13-senator quorum requirement. Bufton said that things are looking up for the senate after recently appointed senators pulled the total number of student senators to 17.

    Bufton said ASPSU proposed a stipend because of the amount of work involved in the student senator job description. Many student senators are full time students, have additional jobs, and many other responsibilities, which Bufton said is why he thinks a stipend would increase senator motivation to stay committed to their position.

    ”When you have 16 credits and you’re part of two student groups, and you have a job – if you’re not getting compensated for a lot of the stuff you’re doing, you’re going to have to end up not doing stuff,” Bufton said, adding that students are not likely to drop credits or quit their jobs to make time for their senate responsibilities. “Right now one of the problems historically is that there is no real job description for senators, and without a stipend it’s hard to hold people accountable for that kind of thing.”

    The Student Fee Committee (SFC) will not approve stipend positions unless a job description for the position is developed. In order to gain approval from the SFC, a job description has been developed in the ASPSU 2007-08 budget, but is still subject to change.

    ”It’s not completely finalized until we vote on it,” said Senate Pro Tempore Daniel Lyons.

    Twelve of the 25 student senators elected last spring still remain in office. Craven said that there are many individuals already motivated to do the work expected of a senator, like candidates were not elected to the senate last spring. “Because people that were elected aren’t doing their job, we’re gonna pay them so that they can start doing their jobs? I just think that it’s a bad idea,” Craven said.

    Craven said that the implications that come with senators being paid – the boss to employee factor that would come into play among Bufton, Morse and the senators – would be a strain on ASPSU.

    ”I think money for senators would be a good idea if you could guarantee that people would be doing the jobs. I think that rewarding people for serving their community is a really good thing,” Craven said. “But its just that to fire somebody when there’s no money involved – is not really that hard, but when somebody is going to start losing their money that they’ve been getting, there’s a whole new legal process involved, and I think that that is a lot more than ASPSU is ready for right now.”

    The job description for senators includes requirements like a six-hours-per-week commitment to their position, holding at least two regular office hours per week, attending all senate meetings and committee meetings, as well as all senate-related events, unless excused for illness or other reasons.

    Senators will be expected to spend several hours per week preparing for their meetings, researching and writing proposals, and talking with their constituents. A seat on at least one all-university committee will be required unless the senator is declared exempt by the senate. Participation in all senate campaigns and training events will be mandatory for all senators.

    The current job description says that senators will meet with the senate pro tempore, currently Lyons, each term for an evaluation of their performance, but Lyons said that this requirement may change.

    ”That may be something that we will talk about next session, is to see if that should be the shared responsibility between the pro tempore and the chair,” Lyons said. Lyons said he thinks that including two viewpoints of the senators’ performance would make the evaluations fairer.

Performance will be subject to Article VI of the senate by-laws, which states that “Removal from the Senate shall be based on lack of job performance as described in the Senate job description,” and “removal from the Senate shall be based on absenteeism.”