The Student Government Association (SGA) president, vice president, speaker and vice president of finance each began receiving a $2,500 stipend on September 1, 2022, according to Lisa Loveall, the director of the Student Involvement, Leadership and Transitions (SILT) office. The stipend totals $10,000 in expenditures.
The same four positions will be offered the stipend beginning September 1, 2023, Loveall wrote. Previously, student government officials holding these positions received no compensation.
SGA “control[s] the money” for the stipends, according to Loveall. There are two avenues that the stipend can come from: federal work-study or through SGA’s operational budget. For those who qualify for federal work-study, federal funds cover 75% of their stipend, while the other 25% comes from SGA’s operational budget, according to SGA President Khegan Meyers (24B). The operational budget is comprised of the Student Activity Fee (SAF), the $114 all undergraduate students at Emory University pay per semester to fund student organizations on campus, Loveall wrote.
Students who are not eligible for federal work-study receive the entirety of their funding from the operational budget, according to Loveall.
Meyers wrote that the stipend was “public knowledge” and had been included in public SGA meeting agendas. SGA agendas, however, are only accessible through a private Microsoft Office 365 group, which students must request to access. These agendas are not posted on SGA’s website, on the Hub or on social media platforms, though Meyers wrote that SGA posts “briefs on our Instagram before the meeting, and a recap after the meeting.” As of press time, there was nothing posted on SGA’s Instagram that indicated the existence of the stipend.
Additionally, several top SGA officials said they knew little to nothing about the stipend’s distribution, funding or even its existence. Both Meyers and Eleanor Liu (21Ox, 23B), who was VP of Finance at the time of the stipend’s enactment, stated that it was SILT who managed the money for the stipend. Loveall clarified that SILT “only processes the hiring paperwork with Emory Human Resources.” Meyers also said he believed that the stipend was only enacted at the beginning of this academic year.
Liu was not sure about the exact dollar amount of the stipend and believed it was only offered to those on financial aid. Current VP of Finance Tracy Dang (22Ox, 24B) also believed that the only people who were eligible to receive the stipend were on financial aid.
Dang said students eligible for the compensation “shouldn’t get paid if they’re not work study.”
In an email to the Wheel, SGA Chief of Staff Mere Hunter (25C) wrote in an email to the Wheel that he had “not heard much about this compensation.”
Rob Golin (26C), a second-year legislator, said that he was not aware that the stipend existed and that it “wasn’t something that is known among SGA members.”
There is no record of the stipend in SGA’s financial documents. However, Meyers wrote that he was not “sure where we would record the compensation in financial documents” — as SGA does not have “a public, centralized location for all our expenditures.”
Liu said that the stipend was not appropriately advertised.
“To be honest, I don’t know why it’s not public knowledge,” Liu said. “I thought it was, because the whole purpose is that we want to encourage people who wouldn’t traditionally come into SGA to see we have this opportunity, that you don’t have to worry about your financials to be in SGA.”
Meyers wrote in an email to the Wheel that he will opt-in to receive the compensation, noting that he works 20 to 30 hours a week on average.
“If I were not to receive this compensation, I would either not be able to take this position, or would have to make serious cuts to living expenditures that would seriously jeopardize my ability to survive and perform in the role,” Meyers wrote.
SGA Vice President Abigail Dubinski (25B) and SGA Speaker of the Legislature MaKenzie Jones (22Ox, 24C) did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Dang said she was unsure if she could receive the stipend due to personal financial conflicts. However, Dang said she expected to work a minimum of “six hours” a week, though she was not sure since she only became the vice president of finance at the start of the 57th legislature’s new term at the end of March.
Liu said that as vice president of finance, she worked on average four hours a week, peaking at 10 hours during weeks when she had to review funding for executive agencies.
Federal work study students are expected to work “between 10 to 20 hours per week,” according to the Office of Financial Aid website.
Lack of communication around stipend
College Council Chief of Staff Finn Johnston (25C) asked Meyers how SGA would improve transparency surrounding the stipend during the April 3 SGA meeting. Meyers responded that the stipend had only come into effect halfway through the 2022-23 academic year, so they had very little time to advertise the stipend. He also said SGA was being more restrictive this year with how much money they were giving to student organizations, and how open they would be with the amount SGA had.
Meyers also said during the meeting that Student Government Services has strict policies regarding disclosure of SGA funding that helps leverage SGA in contract negotiations with artists and vendors, which could also make transparency difficult.
Johnston said he brought up his concern at the meeting because he was generally suspicious of student government.
“Transparency is really important to me, as someone who’s not involved in student government and didn’t want to get involved with student government just because of past scandals and also because I don’t really like organizations that I feel like aren’t transparent to students, especially when they’re elected officials,” Johnston said. “I wanted to make sure that SGA was working really hard on making sure those things were transparent to students and making sure that we, the voters, are knowing everything we need to.”
Support and criticism for stipend
Despite the alleged lack of communication surrounding the stipend, several students in leadership roles supported its existence.
Former Student Programming Council President Ria Puri (23B) said that she was a “huge proponent” of the stipend.
“At an institution like Emory, the deterrent to student leadership should not be financial need,” Puri said. “There are numerous students who would be incredibly qualified for those roles, but can’t afford the time to do it.”
However, she added that she doesn’t believe the money for the stipend should come from the SAF.
“The Student Activity Fee should go back to the students,” Puri said. “I’m a big proponent of that, but I think that the administration should support students by using other funds to help that stipend.”
Reflecting on his experience as a residence hall advisor, Kevin Rui Chen (24B) said that students supporting other students should be compensated.
“You’re just doing a lot for the students when they’re coming to Emory,” Chen said. “Those types of volunteer jobs deserve compensation.”
Oxford College SGA (OxSGA) President Andrew Yang (23Ox), who ran for SGA vice president in a joint campaign with Meyers but lost to Dubinski in the March 3 election, said that the stipend gives students more choices when voting for SGA candidates.
“It does provide that opportunity to at least level some playing field a bit,” Yang said. “Increase the pool of candidates, so that the students have more choices to choose from, because in the end, sure, candidates might be like, ‘Oh, I want to go for SGA because I get money,’ but it might also give more candidates the choice to be like, ‘Oh, I really want to do SGA and now I can have the choice because there is a stipend.’”
However, Yang critiqued that all four SGA leaders receive the same amount of money from the stipend, noting that each position serves a different role.
“The president and vice president should be paid differently, and vice president and VP of finance should be paid differently,” Yang said. “Speaker, I’m not sure, because the speaker is the head of the legislative branch, so it does make sense to pay the same as the head of executive branch.”
The stipend currently does not apply to the Oxford campus’ student government, but Yang said he hoped that it would soon, explaining that OxSGA is more “independent” than the other divisional councils.
“We have our own campus, we have our own culture,” Yang said. “So I think it might be worth considering it. I’m really, completely fine with the stipend being less than Emory’s president, but the Oxford president and vice president both [have] an important role within the Emory community.”
However, in an email to the Wheel, Yang wrote that there were currently no plans to extend the stipend to Oxford, but that he is planning to look into it as an initiative for next year. He added that he will work on the stipend initiative along with other student affairs in a role outside of student government.“We would need to flush out whether the stipend is necessary, how much it would be, who would be funding it, and who would be receiving it,” Yang wrote. “For this work, I would be collaborating with OxSGA, Emory SGA and other student orgs to take into account of everybody’s perspective.”
News Editor | Eva Roytburg (she/her, 23Ox) is from Glencoe, Illinois, majoring in philosophy, politics and law. Outside of the Wheel, Roytburg is an avid writer of short fiction stories. In her free time, you can find her way too deep in a niche section of Wikipedia.