Pay The Reps

Sometimes, it feels like no one cares about ASMSU. Turnout for General Assembly elections has been in the single digits every year that student tax hikes aren’t on the ballot, meaning that many students don’t know who represents them. There have been many contests in recent years where the number of candidates has been at or below the number of seats needed to be filled, resulting in uncompetitive races.

But there is one man who cares a lot about ASMSU — Sergei Kelley. The big boss is back with a new article for The Morning Watch about a proposal to boost engagement and fill General Assembly seats. Currently, only the President, Directors, and hired staff of ASMSU are paid, while representatives are unpaid volunteers. A report presented by Representatives Aaron Iturralde, Jordan Kovach, and Travis Boling aims to change that by proposing a $250/semester stipend for representatives who show up to most meetings, do constituent outreach, and generally are active participants in student government.

Naturally, Kelley is not interested, portraying it as the big, bad student government giving itself money to spread leftism on campus. To that end, he tries his hardest to give the proposal the worst framing he can. Apparently, all the fat cats at ASMSU spend money on are yearly banquets, retreats, and diversity training. And now, another transfer from the student government elite to themselves? The horror!

The report addresses several important reasons why people might not be interested in participating in student government at the GA level. Representatives have to make a pretty big time commitment to make assembly meetings, committee meetings, have office hours, write and review legislation, and do other tasks related to their position. That’s all fine for someone who doesn’t need to work in college, but 20% of MSU students come from the bottom 60% of family incomes. If someone interested in student government had to choose between a paycheck or doing legislative work for free, I bet they would choose the paycheck every time. I don’t think it’s presumptuous to say that affects who decides to run for GA positions.

It’s impossible to get everyone interested in student government, but there are only 36 seats in the GA from 15 colleges. 13 of those seats are vacant, including all the seats reserved for the College of Nursing, Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, and the College of Music. No Preference, the College of Education, and the College of Arts and Letters all only have one seat filled. There are two inactive slots in CORES and COPS, plus four more in the Major Governing Groups, according to ASMSU’s website. While some of this may be due to the weirdness of scheduling and promoting the previous ASMSU election during a pandemic, it’s ridiculous that there are so many vacancies in student government. 

Even conservative representatives understand that this is a good proposal for student government. Though Kelley states that he spoke to multiple representatives, the only one who would give him a quote for this article was Jack Harrison, a Communication Arts and Sciences representative who is also on the MSU College Republicans eboard. Although Kelley has been known to talk to conservative students while passing them off as random voices from the student body, it backfires as Harrison tells him that it is a good policy, because “it is important to reward representatives for their work” and mentions the struggle to fill the GA seats.

Despite Kelley’s implicit protest in the title of his article, which contains an outdated photo that implies representatives have already approved the proposal, I think the proposed bill is a fantastic idea to make sure that representatives are actually paid (somewhat) for what they do. If we want to have a student government that accurately represents students’ concerns and speaks to their issues, then we should start with having a full government.

-K. Sins

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