Landen Lama, the president of Student Senate, works 20 to 25 hours a week on senate tasks. He earns a full-tuition scholarship for that work.
Lama is an in-state student, but Jenny Hall-Jones, the dean of students, said that scholarship would also include the non-resident fee if he were not. The vice president and treasurer get a half-tuition scholarship plus the non-resident fee if applicable. Those scholarships come from the university's central scholarship pool, Ohio University Spokesperson Jim Sabin said.
Lama said though he doesn’t see why the scholarship would make it easier to be senate president because it’s only applied to his academics, it does help take away from the concern of how he will pay for tuition.
“Yes, it would be nice to have a stipend as well because of the amount of work I do compared to what is the breakdown of what (the scholarship is worth),” Lama said. “I would not adequately be able to have a part-time or full-time job because of my academic course load and my senate course load, so I can’t take a job. This is what I have.”
It’s not uncommon for student government officials to be compensated in some way, Lama said, be it through scholarships, stipends or both. Other schools around the state also compensate some of those involved in student government.
Hannah Cubberley, the president of student government at Bowling Green State University, confirmed over email that “The Student Government President at Bowling Green State University receives a scholarship valued at the cost of In-State Tuition.” At the University of Akron, Student Body President Taylor Bennington said he gets an $8,000 stipend. That number is approximately 70 percent of the in-state tuition amount the University of Akron reports on its website. Bennington said that stipend will rise to $9,490 next year, which is about 83 percent of the in-state tuition amount.
Maddie Sloat, the president-elect of Student Senate and current East Green senator, didn’t realize she would be compensated as president until after she was already running.
“I think the way I view it is that the university is viewing it as a job, to a certain extent, and kind of a level of accountability,” Sloat said. “In order to actually have executives that are able to, you know, put the time in that you would want them to into it and not have to be working also 25 hours a week … that’s definitely a factor.”
Sloat is also enrolled in the Honors Tutorial College, and she said the full-tuition scholarship she gets from that “can be moved around some” to help cover other expenses while she serves as president. She said she may have to take on another job to pay for meals and part of her rent.
“By taking this position, I want to be able to dedicate the fullest amount of time — I want to be able to take every meeting with students I possibly can, I want to be in all the rooms with all the administrators,” she said. “I think it’s hard sometimes to do that when you also have to balance that with a job, but I also understand that that’s how these things work. Lots of students on our campus do that in various positions.”
Sloat said she had never really considered the idea of other senate members being compensated. She said she saw benefits and drawbacks both to compensating members and to maintaining the current system.
“If you’re treating it like a job, then sometimes that makes people more accountable,” Sloat said. “On the other hand, you don’t want people to only be invested because I feel like we would be having students that are in senate for the wrong reasons in the sense that they’re looking for compensation as opposed to wanting to do the work.”
She added that while it’s an interesting thought, she isn’t sure that senate would be bringing that up given “the current state of the university’s financing.” She also said that if members were compensated, there would have to be fewer representatives, which would be “negative in a lot of ways.”
For Kay Jurma, a junior studying media and social change, those working on Student Senate should only get such benefits if they’re following through on the promises they make to the student body.
“I don’t know what all being in Student Senate entails,” Jurma said. “I just know that I work 40-plus hours a week when I’m at home, and I don’t make enough to cover my college expenses.”