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Some senators push for higher stipends

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Some senators called for raises to their stipends on Tuesday, contending that the current stipends — which range from $1,700 to $2,450, based on position — do not adequately reflect the amount of work senators do.

“You can work up to like 20 to 40 hours on just Senate stuff because the University depends on the ASSU to come up with policy because they don’t want to,” said Senate Parliamentarian Mià Bahr ’22. Bahr estimated that the current stipend amounted to $4 per hour at the current level she felt senators were working.

But the Senate might not have the funds to cover such an increase. Nor are all senators in agreement that they should receive a raise.

Bahr raised her point after Senate Treasurer Tim Vrakas ’21 informed the body that they had $1,200 remaining in their discretionary funds budget after paying out senator and senate aide stipends. Discretionary funds are used by the Senate to fund senators’ legislative projects, not to fund voluntary student organizations (VSOs). (Vrakas did add that senators deserve to be paid more.)

All senators received a raised stipend this year, though some senators’ raise was larger than others, based on anticipated workload. Vrakas told The Daily that last year, stipends were $1,500 for most senators and up to $2,000 for some.

Stipends for the 22nd Undergraduate Senate members. (Screenshot: Associated Students of Stanford University)

Senator Jonathan Lipman ’21 also said it was important to save money for discretionary projects, from which increasing senators’ stipends could detract.

Senate Chair Micheal Brown ’22 responded that lower stipends could prevent people with more financial need from getting involved in the Senate — and as senate chair, his first priority is getting more people involved. (And Brown said he has “a lot of unilateral discretion over stipends.”)

“Like Joe Biden says, work is dignity,” Brown said.

Brown agreed with senators concerned over the lack of remaining funding for discretionary projects but stood by his decision to raise stipends, and Lipman suggested that he ask the ASSU executive committee to meet regarding the budget and said he felt that revamping presentations given to senators about the budget might help future senators better grapple with the issue.

Some senators also said they are concerned about voter and candidate eligibility complications in upcoming student government elections due to students on leaves of absence and Flex Terms.

Elections Commissioner Edwin Ong ’23 and Bahr floated renewing last year’s temporary modification of the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) Constitution, which allowed elected students to hold senate seats regardless of changes in their enrollment status due to COVID-19. According to Ong, the finalized constitutional modification for the 2021-22 school year will be publicly available in a candidate guide expected next week. 

Senators also unanimously adopted a resolution that makes Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band eligible for annual ASSU grants. The band was not eligible because it is not a VSO. Members requested that the ASSU grant the band a special exemption, saying it is “essentially” student-controlled. The vote was largely procedural.

This article has been corrected to reflect that the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band is not expected to return VSO status. The Daily regrets this error.

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Marli Bosler is a writer in the News section. She is a freshman from Kirkland, WA, and she enjoys making Spotify playlists in her free time. Contact The Daily’s News section at news ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.
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Sam Catania ’24 is the Chief Technology Officer at The Daily. He also is the producer of the weekly video roundup and formerly served as a news beat reporter covering COVID-19 on Stanford's campus and the assessment team leader of The Daily's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) team. Sam is a Philadelphia native currently studying computer science and political science. You can follow him on Twitter @sbcatania. Contact him at scatania 'at' stanforddaily.com