The controversy over the student body vice president’s cash benefits
by: Daniel Peters
Engaging in different activities on campus provides access to stipends within certain organizations. The stipends within Student Government have recently been a concern. According to the Financial Regulations section of the Student Code, only five Student Government positions can receive stipends from student Government funding. The Student Body President can receive a stipend of $300.00 a month, while the Student Body Vice-President, Student Body, Treasurer, and The Undergraduate Student Attorney General, and Student Honor Court Chair receive a stipend of $200.00 a month each. According to the Student Code, “No other Student Government funds shall be used for scholarships or stipends except those delineated [by] two-thirds present and voting members.” The Student Code additionally states that “other organizations may fund stipends from a Generated Funds category only if applicable to a leadership position whose responsibilities continue through the summer months.” That stipends are typically given to leaders with required summer duties has proven to be a source of controversy, as evidenced by the recent debates concerning the Vice-President’s stipend.
The Student Code does not contain rules for the use of the stipend, but Student Government leaders have stated that they are typically used for general living expenses. Although Student Body Vice-President Rachel Myrick donates her stipend back to student funds, she suggested that Student Body President, Will Leimenstoll, use his stipend “to offset the cost of gas because he’s driving to and from Raleigh to meet with state legislators, to grab last minute food when he needs it, or to grab office supplies”. Myrick also noted that her main expenses are parking and gas. She implied that without the stipend, the cost of holding a position such as hers or Leimenstoll’s would be great enough to make such positions inaccessible to members of the student body who would need income beyond financial aid.
During the latter half of the first semester, the existence of the stipend of the Student Body Vice-President was under review because of a bill proposed by representatives of Student Congress. Sponsors of the bill argue that the stipend gives leaders of student government an advantage over leaders of other student organizations on campus that require similar time commitments. Other supporters of the bill want their student fees to be used on student organizations, not on individuals. Another motive for the bill was that the Student Body Vice-President is not required to stay on campus during the summer months, yet both the President and Treasurer are required by Student Code to stay in Chapel Hill during those months – raising questions as to the legitimacy of the Vice-Presidential stipend.
Despite the opposition, Leimenstoll and Myrick remained firm supporters of the stipend. Commenting on what differentiates Student Government leadership positions to other leadership positions on campus, Leimenstoll said that “the difference is that my position, and that of the Vice-President, require one to represent and advocate for the entire campus. We speak for all students when we walk into a meeting, and therefore it’s incredibly important that our positions remain open and accessible to all students on this campus.” Throughout the entire debate during November and December, Leimenstoll was adamant in his assertions that the accessibility of students to Student Government leadership positions was his main priority. He maintained that income from a part-time job is necessary for students, and without such a stipend students such as him would be greatly deterred from pursuing leadership within Student Government. In addition, Myrick pointed out that the duties performed by the leaders of Student Government are “administrative functions of the university being delegated to a student,” and such duties would “otherwise be managed by a paid administrator.” In particular, the Vice-President orchestrates the advisory board of the Chancellor, organizes student fees, manages the External Appointment process over the summer, and takes part in various administrative activities of the university.
On November 18th, five days after the bill was passed, Leimenstoll vetoed the bill, and on December 4th Student Congress met to vote to override the veto. With three abstaining members, the vote was 17-14 in favor of overriding the veto, thus failing to meet the two-thirds majority that would have been needed. Since the issue of the stipend received by the Vice-President has been a recurrent issue, and hoping to resolve the issue for good, Leimenstoll passed a bill that would require future Vice-Presidents to remain in Chapel Hill during the summer months. He says that he is “hoping to work with Student Congress to codify the Vice-President’s summer responsibilities, and find more financial resources for student groups looking for funding this spring.” Myrick, also proactive about resolving the dispute for good, created a list of recommended activities that ought to be performed by Student Body Vice-Presidents in the future. With such actions taken to appease both sides of the bill, one can hope that the stipend issue might finally be resolved.