Council chooses not to endorse raise in executive honoraria

On March 21, after a contentious discussion on raising executive honoraria, the Mount Allison Students’ Union council rejected the proposed $250 raise to each executive member’s honorarium, and approved the 2016-17 budget. The budget was first introduced to council on March 14.

After having accounted for all expenses for the 2015-16 year, a surplus sum of $1,500 remained. Originally it was proposed that this sum be divided fivefold amongst the current MASU executive such that each position would receive a $250 increase in honorarium.

The honoraria were increased for various MASU positions this year, including $500 to the appointment chair and $200 to many co-ordinator positions. Some of these positions received no honorarium before this year.

Many councillors expressed discontent with the allocation of the extra $1,500. As such, vice-president finance and operations Alex Lepianka held a meeting on Sunday, March 20 in order to discuss any issues related to the budget. During the meeting, councillors discussed the future creation of a policy regulating executive honoraria raises. Many councillors noted the need for salaries to follow increases in price of living, arguing that a policy would render this conversation less arbitrary.

At the March 21 council meeting, councillor Maureen Adegbidi commented that she knows of certain students who considered applying for a MASU executive position, but decided not to because they could not afford to work for less than minimum wage during the summer. Adegbidi said that executive positions are arguably exclusionary toward students of lower socioeconomic status.

Currently, executive members each receive an $8,000 honorarium, with the exception of the president, who makes $13,000. Executive members are employed 35 hours per week during the summer, and go part-time – 10 hours per week for the VPs and 15 hours per week for the president – during the academic year. As such, the MASU VPs make approximately $1,000 less than minimum wage, while the president makes approximately $2,300 over minimum wage. The last time executive salaries were raised was three years ago, by $250. This corresponded to an increase of about 3.2 per cent for all VP positions, and about 2 per cent for the president’s position.

The president and VPs at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, make $30,500 and $15,000, respectively. At St. Thomas University, the president is paid $9,000 for the school year and the VPs are paid $5,000. During the summer they are paid minimum wage for their summer’s 40-hour week and their academic year’s 20-hour week. St. Thomas also grants leadership scholarships which pay for 100 per cent of the president’s tuition and 83 per cent of the VPs’ tuition. Other Atlantic universities have similar salary and scholarship schemes.

MASU Councillor Willa McCaffrey-Noviss said she felt the creation of a policy on executive pay raise should be approved next year. Council may choose to strike an ad hoc committee to look into this possibility in the coming weeks.

At the March 21 council meeting, McCaffrey-Noviss, who had previously voiced her lack of support for the increase in executive honoraria, introduced a motion to reallocate the $1,500 to the academic enrichment fund, which provides financial assistance with expenses such as registration fees, travel and accommodation for extracurricular events. After a two-hour-long discussion, in which an amendment to reallocate $500 of that amount to the clubs and societies fund was introduced and failed, council passed McCaffrey-Noviss’s motion.

Various Twitter threads began on the topic of where the extra $1,500 should be spent. Fourth-year international relations student James Beirne tweeted, “I’m also against exec[utive] lecturing people about why they deserve more money while not even acknowledging the unpaid labour of who they are talking to,” referring to the fact that MASU councillors work on a voluntary basis.

Lepianka responded that the unpaid labour of other student groups such as BSAAT, ISG, and ACID should be acknowledged as well, clarifying that “this is a call-in for intersectionality.”

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