EDITORIAL: Secured club leader payment bylaw needs work
In February, Charles River Senator Oliver Price ’20 plans to introduce an amendment to the Union Constitution that would allow certain members of secured clubs to be paid. According to a Nov. 5 Justice article, the amendment would give secured clubs the opportunity to request a wage-eligible status. Wage-eligible clubs could then petition the Allocations Board, which would decide whether or not club members would be paid, which select members would be paid and how much those members would earn. Though this board sees both potential benefits and potential downsides to implementing this amendment, we do not approve of its passage as it stands.
Paying students for their work in clubs would address an issue of inequity that exists in club role opportunities. For students who need to work a certain number of hours each week for financial reasons, club leadership positions or even general membership positions are often inaccessible. The time commitment that is required for some clubs is significant, and it might be difficult in many cases to balance those hours with a paid job. This could inevitably lead to patterns in the type of people seen in club leadership roles in the University community — those who do not need to work during the school year may be more likely to be highly involved in clubs than those who are dependent on earning money while at school. If students were able to earn money for their club involvement as per the proposed amendment, club positions would become available to a wider community of people. Payment would also motivate people to continue with roles that they might otherwise consider leaving for a variety of reasons, which could help reduce high turnover rates in club positions.
A problem with only paying members of secured clubs, and only up to four members in each club of this status, is that it would not fully address the wider problem of inequity in access to club leadership positions around campus. According to the Union Constitution, current secured clubs include WBRS 100.1 FM, Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps, Waltham Group, Brandeis Television, Student Events (Campus Activities Board), Archon Yearbook, Student Sexuality Information Service, the Justice and the Brandeis Sustainability Fund. Other clubs, which are important to the Brandeis community and whose members put in just as many hours as members of secured clubs do, would not be included in this amendment. Furthermore, limiting the number of club leaders that could be paid to four disregards the fact that many clubs have well over four students who are deserving of and/or in need of payment. Deciding which members of a club should be paid would be not only a difficult and highly subjective process, but also likely unreflective of some of the club members’ opinions regarding who deserves and needs the payment.
Another concern with having only some members of each club receive payment for their contributions is that it could present an unwanted power dynamic between paid and unpaid members. It could damage relationships and foster a sense of unnecessary competition between people vying for club roles. There is also an implication behind paid positions that those roles are more important to the club and that paid members work harder and deserve more reward and recognition. Even in a situation where this is the case, unpaid members might feel as though they need to answer to paid members who are not their superiors or who do not actually have jurisdiction over a certain matter.
This board sees several possible alternatives to the proposed amendment. One option to explore is that of a scholarship fund for club leaders. This would be handled by the University administration, rather than A-Board, in order to avoid breaches of privacy with individuals’ financial information. Students who demonstrate sufficient need, or show that their extracurricular involvement actively takes time away from a paying job, would receive this funding. This board acknowledges that proving financial need is a complex and imperfect system; however, a need-based scholarship fund would likely solve some of the potential problems of imbalanced group dynamics because its implications would no longer be dependent on A-Board’s evaluation of which positions in a group deserve a stipend and which do not.
Such a fund would, of course, not be relevant to the proposed bylaw. Its dispensation would fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Student Activities or perhaps Student Financial Services, not the Student Union, but it would still come from the Student Activities Fund. In this way, the suggestion of a scholarship fund for club leaders may not be an ideal alternative to the proposed bylaw. This board simply views it as a somewhat more viable method to equitably dispense University funds.
Considering the issue of the A-Board having a limited amount of money to disperse among select club members, another suggestion is to redirect funds to members of one club that is deemed worthy of having all its members paid. This board agrees that the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps is a vital organization that should receive payment for all of its members. Although this board acknowledges that we are not familiar with all the organization’s dynamics, this board feels as though the rule limiting paid members of a club to four would be neglectful of the important work that all of BEMCo’s volunteers provide to the University community.
If this amendment passes as it stands, the Justice will not be applying for wage-eligible status. In order to maintain journalistic integrity, it is important that we do not take part in a system that would further hold us accountable to the A-Board. However, this board would like to urge the Senate to consider all of these positives and negatives when deciding whether or not to pass the amendment, and to look into possible alternative options.