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The student body pays the ASCMC President far too much. The presidential stipend is currently $15,000, of which $7,500 comes from the ASCMC budget. This is $6,300 more than ASCMC pays for next highest paid position, the Social Affairs Chair, $6,000 more than the Pomona student body president receives, and $5,700 more than the Scripps student body president receives. Neither the Pitzer nor the Harvey Mudd student body presidents receive a stipend at all.

$7,500 is a lot of money, especially in the context of ASCMC. Our Social Life Chair is allocated $7,000 a year, meaning that the presidential stipend is larger than the entirety of our dry event budget, and nearly equivalent to the entirety of the budgets of the Junior, Sophomore, and Freshman classes combined. $7,000 is additionally over half of the entirety of Senate’s budget.

The truth is, this money can be better spent elsewhere. If we reduce the stipend by only $3,500, we could increase the entirety of the SLC budget by 50%, or increase dorm budgets by nearly 20%, or club budgets by around 7%. That’s a lot more added value for a lot more students.

Spending $7,000 of student money on one person adds no value to ASCMC. It not only prevents money from being spent on other, valuable programs, but also delegitimizes the rest of the board when comparing relative stipends. The next highest paid position on ASCMC is that of the Social Affairs Chair, who receives $1,200 a year. In other words, ASCMC’s stipend system is essentially saying that the President does approximately 14 times as much work as the Social Affairs Chair–even though ASCMC’s social chairs arguably have the highest hourly workload of the entirety of the Executive Board, having to set up, staff, and take down every social event (in addition to having to meet with members of the administration regularly). Other, lower paid members of Executive Board are further devalued, most notably the Student Security Director, who only receives $300 a year, only 1/50th of the Presidential stipend, despite having to secure and staff every single ASCMC social event.

Many defend the size of the stipend by pointing out that the stipend allows candidates who otherwise would have applied to be an RA to run for office instead, or that most presidents donate their salary back to ASCMC. I don’t buy these reasons. People should want to be on ASCMC because they want to serve their student body and improve their school, not because they get $15,000 out of the deal.  Additionally, a system in which donation becomes the norm means that those presidents or presidential candidates that do not or will not donate their salaries back to ASCMC are criticized for their stinginess or greed, unnecessarily dragging the question of a candidate’s familial financial situation into an election.

For those concerned about such a drastic reduction to the presidential stipend, regardless of the massive additional value it will bring to the student body, remember that the Dean of Students office matches the amount that ASCMC pays its president – a donation provided from DOS singularly for the ASCMC president. As such, a $3,500 stipend from ASCMC means that the president would actually receive $7,000. In fact, this could be cause for further cutting the presidential stipend, considering that DOS automatically doubles whatever ASCMC pays its president.

I propose offering a constitutional amendment to reduce the Presidential stipend to $3,500, effective immediately. The amount of added value that we can bring to CMC with an extra $3,500 is huge. It’s time to stop compromising on where our student fees go, and reduce the presidential stipend to a level that allows CMC students to get what they deserve out of their student government.

  • Julian

    It seems like a better solution would be to raise the Presidential stipend to $20k, let DOS match it, and then have the President donate $25k back to ASCMC.

    • Julian Mackie

      People can debate the merits of this argument but to be clear this wasn’t written by me.

    • Misunderstanding

      Haha just to clear the confusion, this is Mr. Buckner NOT Mr. Mackie.

  • hmm

    “DOS automatically doubles whatever ASCMC pays its president”

    — Not necessarily true. Has DOS ever explicitly said that they would continue to match ASCMC for the stipend if their matching no longer levels the stipend with RA pay?

    “The amount of added value that we can bring to CMC with an extra $3,500 is huge”

    — ASCMC just passed a proposal that will bring in an additional $18k in student fees each year if approved by the trustees. Furthermore, given the total size of the ASCMC budget, that number seems even less significant. “Huge” may be a bit of a reach…

    • Past Budget Committee Member

      We spoke to them about it 2 years ago and they said they would only match the stipend if it is under the logic that they should be paid the equivalent of an RA. So, they’ve explicitly said they will only match the stipend if it remains at its current levels, which is why the topic was dropped.

  • kayla

    Amen. The stipend is ridiculous, especially as ASCMC raises student fees by $15/student.

    Hopefully the current exec board is more responsive than previous ones.

    • Exec Board Member

      Please note that if the student fees are increased, it will be contingent upon the fees not being used for parties and events with alcohol. It will be used for more dry events and important social initiatives.

      • kayla

        How is that relevant? Why not leave student fees as they are, reduce the stipend as Aseem suggests, and use those funds for these “important social initiatives.”

        • Exec Board Member

          We found that the marginal benefit of increasing student fees by $15 is much higher than its cost because it would in turn increase our budget by about $18,000. Note that this increase will be covered for students on financial aid. The $3,500 that Aseem talks about is not enough if we really want to make ASCMC more socially responsible – in other words, ASCMC is primarily an event planning organization, which is great, and necessary for such a small campus depending on a central organization to keep a lively social scene. But if ASCMC wants to become more involved in deeper issues, ones that have been addressed by the majority of candidates this upcoming election, it will need a separate budget to do so. The use of this money will have great long term benefits on CMC which have been promised year after year by exec board, but have never delivered because to be frank, events have been our priority. Hopefully, this new board will take advantage of this new budget and do some good with it.

          Please note that the Board of Trustees still needs to approve the increase, and they only will if they see this argument as feasible.

  • Important Point

    I agree with most things Aseem said. I think it’s really important that the stipends to VP and especially event management is increased (I’m surprise anyone is willing to do Event Management with such a low stipend, although I’m guessing they may be paid through the event management budget for every hour they put in).

    I think it’s important, however, that the next board, if it decreases the stipends, tries to convince DoS to keep the money it gives, and in turn just decrease what ASCMC pays, simply because what ASCMC pays is from student fees, and if we decrease the stipend by too much I think it may be somewhat unfair to future candidates – as president you’ll probably be unable to work another job, although in some cases people have. Some students may need this money, and even if they are the most passionate about ASCMC, they’d be forced to get a paid job or two instead.

    So, it’s fine, decrease the Stipend by a certain amount, but fight for DoS to keep their side of the end just as high. It may not work, but it’s worth a try.

  • Concerned

    It is ridiculous to me that the Forum allows candidates for any office to publish statements during election season, regardless of whether or not they have received permission from their opponents. While I agree with what Ben wrote (not as much with Aseem’s statements), it pollutes the integrity of the election process to give these guys another place to publish candidate statements, and the Forum should think about that in future elections

  • In Defense of the President

    Why would you bring this up right before a presidential election? Maybe the president needs that money to pay for tuition. If you are student body president, chances are you can’t keep a regular job. We wouldn’t want the best candidate to not run because he or she can’t afford to. The election shouldn’t be about who comes from more wealth.

    • Frugality

      Odd argument. Consider the real job market. Someone who works 35 hours per week, 50 weeks per year as a McDonald’s crew member will gross just under $12,700. Then Uncle Sam takes a cut. Why should a 21 year old who is essentially the director of a party planning committee make 16K? The school president is not working the same hours nor is he or she adding 16K of value.

      Ben T: Earn the respect of your peers by refusing to take a portion of your current stipend. If you do, I guarantee you will always look back and be proud of your younger self.

      • Misguided stinginess?

        Hmm. Your argument seems a bit odd, as well. First, CA minimum wage is currently $8/hour and will rise to $9/hour in July, so the proper figure for your hypothetical McD’s employee is closer to $15,225 for the year. Second: Yes, that will be taxed, but it will be taxed under the lowest bracket, so virtually nothing will get pulled from that. An ASCMC prez’s compensation, meanwhile, is considered a lump sum stipend and is taxed at a considerably higher rate. Almost certainly, the ASCMC prez will come out with less money for the year than the McD’s employee.

        Third, being an ASCMC officer in general and president in particular requires a set of skills far beyond what’s required for a McD’s employee. Try running an effective Exec Board meeting when 14 type-A CMCers sit around the table. Or consider the volume of reimbursements that needs to be processed by the CFO, president, and VP (the only signers on the bank account). Or the delicate nature of constantly playing middle man between students/SAC/DAC on one side and DOS on the other.

        Fourth, your estimate of the hours an ASCMC prez puts in may be a bit off. It’s probably not 35 hours/week on average, but I’d wager it’s not far off. Have you ever sat through 5-C club budgeting? CMC budgeting? A trustee finance committee meeting? Ath Advisory Committee? 5-C Council of Presidents? 5-C DOS meetings? Have you seen the tedious process for handling reimbursements? Are you aware of the volume of emails a person gets as soon as they are publicly identified as the head of an organization, particularly a student org? An ASCMC prez could drown under the volume of the ones from outside organizations, though those can be mostly ignored. The ones from 5-C orgs, meanwhile, must be reviewed and organized, particularly if they involve funding requests. Most of these tasks are unique to the president, and no other officer has responsibility for more than a few of them (the clubs and orgs chair, for example, attends both budgeting sessions). Moreover, the tasks above only include the mandatory, mostly Constitutionally mandates roles the president has. A good prez is doing way more than what he’s required to do.

        In short, I think your points rely on some inaccuracies and some faulty logic.

  • swagbreh

    Gavin Landgraf should have gotten more!! #LANDGRAF DYNASTY!!!!

  • Laura Epstein

    This is uncalled for. Regardless of who I voted for, Aseem and I have talked about this for probably years. I don’t love that the Forum published all of these pieces, but it was clearly not just Aseem who wrote op-eds like this one. Elections are a time for new ideas to come about, or old ideas to resurface, and this is definitely a great idea.

    • nomoreaseem

      It’s not uncalled for. I’m on the Executive Board right now, and let me tell you, all Aseem does is show up and pretend that he’s on the board also. He’s not, and it’s really annoying to have to deal with someone who doesn’t know his place. He’s not on the board, he shouldn’t pretend like he is.

      People like ASSem make CMC worse (and yeah, I spelled it wrong on purpose). They’re too obsessed with themselves, and don’t let other people have a say in anything. ASSem should stay far away from ASCMC, and never come back again. We’ll all be happier when (if) he graduates and leaves us for good.

      • Sho Kajima

        I don’t know Aseem all that well but what I learned from your asinine, childish, and petty comment is why our Executive Board doesn’t accomplish anything (if you’re even a part of the board as you claim). It saddens me that this is the quality of person we have making decisions for the student body. For someone who claims to dislike narcissism, you sure seem to think highly of yourself. I apologize that us commoners don’t “know our place” and dare to put forward new ideas. Maybe if you spent more time trying to improve the lives of students and less time writing stupid comments, people wouldn’t be clamoring to replace you. But then again, I guess everyone feels pretty mighty from behind a computer screen, coward.

        • Sho Kajima

          And to clarify, when I wrote that I don’t know Aseem well, I meant his behavior at Executive Board Meetings.

      • Gavin Landgraf

        You’re not on the Exec Board. Stop trashing candidates and go home.

        • John Shaughnessy

          Relevant :
          Hatred Breeds Hatred
          http://zenpencils.com/comic/144-the-artist-troll-war-1-hatred-breeds-hatred/

          and

          Negativity Destroys All
          http://zenpencils.com/comic/145-the-artist-troll-war-part-2-negativity-destroys-all/

          I’ve enjoyed my interaction with the Exec Board.

        • nomoreaseem

          I sit across the table from you every week on Sunday nights. You’re not the only one involved in this school.

          The kid’s a bad kid. Seriously. A straight-up bad egg. The kind of person who watches House of Cards and takes notes. Point is, he’s never been a good person. He’s manipulative, pushy, and above all – just someone who wants to be better than people. If he takes a hint, he should quite Senate and ASCMC – THE VOTERS DON’T WANT HIM.

          Will listens to people. He cares about them. All Assem does is try to manipulate his way to power. He can’t even win an election, though, so I hope he takes the hint and withdraws from ASCMC entirely. HE HAS NOTHING VALUABLE TO BRING. HE LOST BY 18%. IF THAT’S NOT A CLEAR SIGN, NOTHING IS. WHEN YOU LOSE BY THAT MUCH AND YOU’RE EVENLY MATCHED WITH THE OTHER CANDIDATES IN EVERY WAY, IT’S CLEAR THAT PEOPLE HATE YOU. Take a hint…

        • Aseem Chipalkatti

          I’ve clearly offended you at some point, and that’s colored your opinion of me. I’m sorry for that. Let’s chat about why you have such angry feelings towards me at some point. Hate consumes – why waste your time with it?

          Feel free to contact me. I live in Berger 126. My email is [email protected]. My phone number is 425-213-9534. Let’s talk this out. I may have lost the election, which is evidently something that pleases you, but I’d rather not lose a friendship, or at least the potential for one.

  • Jordan S.

    If you all are so interested in lowering the stipend (as I was when I was attending three years ago and almost did what I’m about to suggest), look into the ASCMC Constitution at the Initiative Process for a Constitutional Amendment (which is what you need to do to change the stipend). Don’t wait for ASCMC to solve your problems, do it yourself.

  • The Rock

    Great article, Aseem. This discussion has been long overdue. You may have lost the election, but I hope you stay involved in student government and work to lower the presidential stipend. As for the digital criticisms, brush them off. To pull a quote from The West Wing: “If they’re shooting at you, you know you are doing something right.”