Special fees save FLiCKS’ officer salaries after ASSU rejection
FLiCKS, a student group that offers free movies on campus, received $91,000—including $9,900 for officer salaries—in special fees funding last month, after the ASSU Undergraduate Senate had rejected the group’s fee request based in part on those salaries. FLiCKS officers have, however, defended their compensation, arguing that FLiCKS has always been a business providing a specific service to students.
“We budget about $3,000 per quarter for officer salaries right now,” FLiCKS President Rex Kirshner ’13 said. “We consider all of our six members officers.”
For their fiscal year 2013-14 budget, FLiCKS had initially requested that the ASSU approve their fee request of $91,000 without having to use the special fees ballot. That request was rejected in February.
“We initially thought that we would just get [our new budget approval] from the Senate,” Kirshner said. “They saw our budget and didn’t like parts of it, and just rejected it, out of the blue.”
“We were not a hundred percent sure why the budget was rejected,” said Kit Evans ’13, FLiCKS’ director of special events.
Christos Haveles ’15, deputy chair of the Senate’s Appropriations Committee at the time, said that the Senate’s rejection of FLiCKS’ request was based in part on the salaries sought.
“We rejected their budget mainly because of the first line item on their budget, for officer salary,” he said. “It was going to be split amongst the six officers—in their interview, they explained that this money is for all officers.”
In the group’s application to the ASSU, officer salaries were described as “discretionary pay for FLiCKS officers.” Haveles said that FLiCKS’ budget allocates salaries to the Financial Officer and President, but all other members are paid by the hour.
“I know their marketing director reported the most hours,” Haveles said. “It’s all pretty much self-reported, and I am not sure exactly how much it is per hour.”
Kirshner noted that the FLiCKS budget—the fourth most expensive undergraduate-only budget voted on by students—mostly goes towards the infrastructure necessary to screen a movie.
“A lot of the budget is for special events, like special screenings,” Evans added, citing an event during fall quarter when FLiCKS showed an advance screening of the musical comedy “Pitch Perfect.”
However, Haveles said that concerns over the budget didn’t come from those expenses.
“Those fixed costs of getting good-quality movies for showing was an understandable cost,” Haveles said. “The officer salary…it was solely their decision to pay themselves. FLiCKS can happen with or without that. You could argue that any student group could do better if it had officer salaries.”
FLiCKS’ budget for the previous fiscal year requested the same amount for officer salaries but explained the amount in more detail. In 2012-13, the organization paid $1,000 per quarter to executives—the president, vice president and financial manager—and paid three “fellows” another $100 per quarter for the year.
FLiCKS uses special fees funding—which is levied from students—to pay officer salaries. According to Haveles, however, the evidence suggests that FLiCKS does not always spend all of the funding that the group allocates to officer salaries.
“We also talked to FLiCKS leadership [about] them not having a full record of how much of that $9,000 they were spending,” Haveles said. “We thought that they were budgeting too high for officer salaries.”
Haveles suggested that the unspent funds from requests for officer salaries had been used to build up the group’s reserve funds. For the fiscal year 2012-13, the organization had a reserve of $15,735.36.
Kirshner defended FLiCKS’ salaries by describing the organization as a business providing a service to the Stanford community.
“The reason we are not like other groups [who request special fees] is that we are not really around a central theme,” he said. “We offer a service to the campus and the community. There is no other motive for us to do this other than a business motivation.”
Kirshner said that, in the past, unpaid FLiCKS officers have quit because they were not drawing a salary.
“We have very concrete evidence of what happens when we don’t pay our members,” he said.
According to Haveles, FLiCKS’ rationale for four-figure salaries is based more in history than in common sense.
“It was mainly that they got it before,” Haveles said, explaining that FLiCKS cited tradition as a reason for their group’s officer salaries.
Haveles added that the Senate was worried about the precedent of allowing one group’s officers to pay themselves.
“We didn’t think that it was—call it whatever you want—fair,” he said. “Especially [salaries for] positions that are similar in other groups, like financial officer, for example. Their financial officer was paying himself a thousand dollars.”