The California sun is not the only perk for Stanford’s student government leaders, with the president of the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) enjoying a relatively large stipend and several unique privileges compared to his peers at other elite institutions.
Robbie Zimbroff ’12 M.A. ’13, current president of the ASSU, received a $8,750 salary for the year and split a $2,750 summer stipend with ASSU Vice President William Wagstaff ’12 M.A. ’13 to pay for summer housing on campus.
The ASSU President is also a non-voting member on the Faculty Senate and is given the opportunity to enroll as a half-time student at a 50 percent tuition rate. ASSU Assistant Financial Manager Stephen Trusheim ’13 M.S. ’14 estimated that only four undergraduates on campus are allowed to enroll half-time.
Salaries and perks for student body presidents vary at colleges around the country, with some, like the Harvard Undergraduate Council president and the president of the Yale College Council, receiving no pay and others, such as the University of Central Florida student body president, receiving $20,000 per year in addition to benefits like free cell phones and parking passes, money for meals and opportunities to meet celebrities who visit campus.
Zimbroff said that — other than free admission to football and basketball games — he has received no special perks as ASSU President.
“I would love if there were tons of perks, if we got flown around the world and stuff, but I can’t think of anything,” Zimbroff said, though he noted that he had heard past ASSU Presidents were given free food from The Axe and Palm.
According to Trusheim, the ASSU President’s salary has remained largely constant over the past decade, varying by at most $1,000 in any year since 2002-03 when the president received $9,500. Most of the annual changes made by the ASSU Undergraduate Senate and Graduate Student Council have consisted of redistributing money between the summer stipend and the academic year salary.
Student body presidents at several of Stanford’s peer institutions are not paid for their work and receive no special benefits. That includes Tara Raghuveer, president of the Harvard Undergraduate Council.
“I would say my main perk is that I get to work with a great group of people on stuff I really care about, but besides that there’s nothing material,” she said.
Raghuveer said that she has been involved with the Undergraduate Council since her sophomore year and decided to run for president because of her interest in local government and her desire to foster communication between students and the administration.
“I’m pretty happy doing it without getting paid,” she said. “I think there are a lot better uses of student money than funding me. I ran for this position because I feel that I have the time and energy to dedicate to it, and that doesn’t necessarily require any kind of monetary payback.”
John Gonzalez, president of the Yale College Council (YCC), also does not receive a salary. Gonzalez said that he believes the YCC president should be compensated, as he thinks that it would “legitimize” the role.
“I think it would be very helpful in holding the president accountable to the undergraduate population as well as to administrators,” he said, adding that compensation would also make the administrators take the work of the YCC more seriously.
According to Gonzalez, Yale’s administration currently does not seek input from the student government. He said that he receives no perks as president of the YCC and noted that he is currently enrolled in a full load of classes because of Yale’s high credit requirement.
“I spend over five hours a day on this job,” Gonzalez said. “It’s really hard when you’re trying to keep up with classes, too. I really don’t feel like a student. Most of my time is spent answering emails, going to meetings and managing the council.”
Raghuveer and Connor Landgraf, president of the Associated Students of the University of California, are also currently taking full course loads. Though Landgraf was paid a $4,000 stipend for his work this year, he received no perks.
While Zimbroff receives a relatively large salary compared to Landgraf, Gonzalez and Raghuveer, the job of ASSU President still pays far less than several other positions on campus, especially those available for graduate students and co-terms.
“If we ever had a grad student want to be ASSU President, it literally makes no economic sense for them,” Trusheim said. “For TA-ships they would get $8,000 a quarter, and the ASSU President’s salary is a huge step down from that.”
The minimum salary for a graduate student working as a teaching assistant (TA) for the 2012-13 academic year was $8,327 per quarter, or a total of $24,981 for a graduate student working all three quarters.
As a co-term student, Zimbroff had the opportunity to work as a TA, but chose to run for ASSU President despite the fact that he is earning only a third of a TA’s salary.
“I don’t think anyone doing this job should be complaining about needing to get paid more or have more perks,” Zimbroff said. “There is a bigger reason why you should be doing this — the idea that you want to help improve student life in certain small ways.”