MSA leadership deserve stipends

by Paul Mitchell, MSA Member

The Minnesota Daily reported Sept. 25 that the Minnesota Student Association failed to pass a budget at the most recent forum.

Many students are unaware that MSA helps fund other student organizations. MSA disburses more than $50,000 in grants to other student groups across campus.

Tuesday’s impasse on passing the budget over concerns of leadership stipends is causing a nearly one-month delay in the disbursement of grants, thereby affecting a multitude of students across campus.

Many groups rely on these funds to run their organizations. This delay, pushing disbursement back until at least mid-October, can be detrimental to these groups as they plan for the school year, which is already well underway.

Among the debated points was the notion that MSA is using these stipends to “pad the pockets of MSA leadership.” These allegations of monetary misuse are unwarranted and unacceptable.

I had the opportunity to talk with MSA President Mike Schmit and asked him to provide a rough estimate of his time commitment to MSA. Between all his obligations, he estimates he spends approximately 35 hours per week on MSA-related activities. That is a conservative estimate that does not account for his unpaid work over the summer to plan for the current school year.

Members that claim MSA is squandering funds on stipends say it is “despicable” given the fact that most students are taking on debt and working very hard to make ends meet.

I think these members are forgetting that MSA leaders are students too. But instead of taking a minimum wage, part-time job, MSA leadership strives to put in the effort to better the lives of all students, at personal expense.

For example, Schmit’s stipend was budgeted for $5,000, which may seem like a lot at first glance.

However, jobs on the University’s employment webpage often advertise wages above minimum wage. If Schmit were to take one of those jobs, even one at minimum wage, he would earn more than $7,000 dollars per academic year for the same amount of time he puts in as MSA president. Not to mention many officers, like Joelle Stangler, student representative to the Board of Regents, go above and beyond their duties. Stangler is not budgeted additional compensation despite taking on the additional work.

When you see the numbers, it only makes sense that they be compensated for their time. In fact, the budgeted compensation comes out to be less than minimum wage.

I would ask the budget critics and you the reader this question: Would you work 35 hours per week for no pay?

If your answer is no, then you don’t have the right to criticize the stipends that MSA has budgeted for its officers.

We are an undergraduate body, for the undergraduate body. So let’s not have MSA operate like our dysfunctional Congress.

We need to put aside partisan ideology, pass the budget and get to work on our mission: bettering the lives of all students.