Letter to the Editor: Foghorn-Senate dialogue should continue in weeks ahead

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Dear SF Foghorn,

I am writing in response to the recent opinion article written in last week’s Foghorn about ASUSF Senate’s Finance Committee and the budget process in order to provide additional information that may prove helpful to your readers.

While I commend the Foghorn on covering such an important topic to students, I found the article to have information that may lead readers toward misunderstandings about the budget process. Below are some points for clarification:

• As with every annual ASUSF budget cycle, the amount requested exceeded the amount available, requiring that each budget be cut in some way. The Committee is in the difficult position of making these decisions based on the proposals submitted in order to submit to ASUSF Senate a balanced budget proposal. ASUSF Senate has authority for final approval.

• The Senate executive stipends were set three years ago, and have been frozen at the same amount since that time. This compensation for Senate executives is on par or lower than many schools. Examples of compensation at other institutions include tuition remission, room, board, priority registration and other benefits in addition to stipends.

• The Senate executive stipends are higher than any other funded account due to the level of responsibility and time requirement. These executives are the leadership for the organization that has the responsibility for student advocacy for all of ASUSF, the undergraduate student population of USF. According to their constitution, at minimum executives must maintain office hours each week (12 for President, 10 for VPs); attend weekly e-board meetings; serve as a mentor to 4-6 senators; lead 1-2 committees of students; and maintain regular communication with constituents and senators. These are the outlined responsibilities and do not include individual responsibilities of each executive, or the initiatives that necessitate advocacy for students. On average, Senate executives work an estimated 20-30 hours/week, not including peak times of year such as the budget season when the Vice President for Business Administration worked approximately 50 hours/week.

• ASUSF Senate has considered several resolutions/proposals this year on issues such as keeping tuition increases low, extending crossroads hours and shuttle service, installation of lockers on campus, continuation of the MUNI Class Pass program, and so on. ASUSF Senate’s productivity should be measured not only by the resolutions passed, but other initiatives as well such as: committee representation/shared governance initiatives; revamped superfund and funded account budget process via Orgsync; funds distributed to support campus life through these two committees; student voice on smoking ban; budget transparency given presentation at Club Presidents Council in Fall 2008; creation of LGBTQ position; climate survey and social justice week; intentional community action process; senator code to ensure accountability; mid-year and year-end performance reviews for executives tied to stipend allocation; use of constituent email messages and revamp of senate website to improve student access to Senate.

On a personal note, I would advocate for higher student stipends across the board for key leadership positions at USF.

At the same time, I think the positions should be seen in the context of wonderful opportunities to gain skills and knowledge, while serving the greater good.

I support the dialogue that is happening between SF Foghorn and ASUSF Senate, and would encourage it to continue in the weeks ahead.

Note: The 2009-10 ASUSF Budget was presented on Tuesday, April 21 at the ASUSF Senate meeting in Xavier Chapel, and will be approved at Senate’s final meeting on May 5.
These are open meetings and all are welcomed to attend.

Dr. Gregory V. Wolcott

Director, Student Leadership and Engagement & Advisor to ASUSF Senate

2 COMMENTS

  1. I agree with what has been outlined by the Director of Student Activities. Since I was a freshman in 2004 and was a part of the discussions to raise Senate executive stipends, I have to add that another key motivation was to increase participation in the elections and productivity of Senate executives.

    This upcoming Senate election is the first time that the position of ASUSF President has been contested in four years. Similar statistics apply to the VP positions and voter turnout has not peaked 10% since before my time at USF. The intention was to give students who couldn’t afford to be ASUSF President the chance to run for office without having to work a part time job during their term. Before the increase, holding the position of president was not an option for many of our students. The time commitment to do the job well is too much while having to work. Many will have a difference of opinion with my last statement…but I know from experience.

    As an alumnus (and continued reader of the Foghorn down here in So Cal), I feel another issue is raised by the editorial. This is probably the most pre-election coverage/discussion that I have seen in the Foghorn…ever. I was always disappointed in the lack of Senate coverage when I was President. The more students can read about campus politics in the student newspaper, the more they can be informed and involved in the democratic process.

    From reading this editorial (as an outsider these days), I believe the Foghorn was upset by the first round of budget cuts this year and chose to write an editorial to leverage their position with the finance committee for an appeal. My hope, Hunter, is that you and the Foghorn staff will step back from this, see the big picture, and realize that, as a result of your editorial, you have set the agenda for this upcoming spring election. What if you could help spark discussion like this more often? Judging from the responses that I have seen on your website, it’s clear people are participating…

    I echo Dr. Wolcott’s message…continue the dialogue with Senate.

    With nostalgia,

    James Kilton,
    ASUSF President 2006-2008

    P.S. – As a side note…love the new website. It’s hot.

  2. responsibilities of the president vp, and other execs aren’t being contested. obviously, everyone involved in either senate finance committee are committed individuals, this argument is becoming redundant. the issue is that since budget cuts are inevitable, the first place they ought not to cut are the clubs and organizations that fall directly under this proposal. i have yet to hear any other valid arguments that actually justify this proposal.

    who does senate represent if student organizations don’t exist? i think since many clubs on campus receive barely enough funding to function, with little leg-room, that any more cuts would obviously hurt actual operations as well as possible future expansion. this proposal leaves next to no room for growth for future clubs, since james quite accurately pointed out, this decision will set a precedent for future senate/finance committee and student club relations.

    and want to talk about waste of funds? how about all the plasma screen televisions on campus that are completely defunct, since their purpose is……? let’s have a charity auction on ebay and sell the televisions to fund clubs this next year, if this proposal does get approved.

    where the hell are the rest of the funded clubs whose budgets were cut this year? only foghorn and usf tv have appealed as far as i know. are student reactions actually going to manifest in action?

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