MSA senators defend MSA chair pay, Craft Studio

Extra money in the MSA budget will go to smaller organizations and Senate Speaker Kevin Carr pushes for higher chair pay in the 2016 MSA budget.

Several Missouri Students Association senators have addressed two primary concerns with the 2015-16 proposed budget for MSA. They have requested the return of salaries for MSA Senate committee chairs and challenged the proposed major funding cuts to the MSA/GPC Craft Studio.

Senate chair pay

The push for reinstating salaries for the MSA Senate committee chairs is not new. After a failed attempt to pay chairs last year, the chairs want to work toward the same goal this year.

Chair pay was cut in fiscal year 2013 under former MSA President Xavier Billingsley, his vice president Helena Kooi, and former Senate Speaker Jacob Sloan because of a large cut to the overall MSA budget, current Budget Committee chairman Bill Vega said.

The proposed budget would pay chairs $7.75 per hour for 1.6 hours per week for 32 weeks, which is only half of their required three office hours. This does not include outside work and meetings. In total, each chair would make $396.80 for the year, totaling $2,380.80.

The chairs cannot be paid a stipend, Senate Speaker Kevin Carr said. They must be paid an hourly wage, so if a chair leaves mid-semester, they can still get the money they earned.

Carr said he believes the return of chairs’ salaries will create an incentive for them to do a better job.

“We’re losing good talent,” he said. “It’s hard to put in the work that’s required for a part-time job into something that you’re not being rewarded for.”

The return of salaries would also promote longevity in chairs’ terms. Committee chairs are drawn to executive positions with higher pay and do not stay in their committee as long.

An issue that the Senate consistently faces is lack of competitiveness for each position. Carr said he hopes that if pay were to return, competition would grow, increasing the effectiveness of the Senate.

“Right now, there are very few applications for chair positions or any position in Senate,” Carr said. “If we create a monetary growth opportunity for them, that will in theory create competition for different chair positions, which is great. Competition is what we want because it drives people to be more productive and ambitious in their involvement in Senate.”

Last year, the initiative failed because the money to implement chair wages would be taken out of the funding for the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center, an idea which was widely unpopular.

The RSVP Center was an MSA/GPC auxiliary before it changed hands and became a part of the Department of Student Life.

Vega declined to comment regarding chair salaries; he said addressing this as an issue that affects him personally as the budget chairman would be a conflict of interest.

During the last full Senate meeting March 18, the Senate passed Resolution 54-33 that supports chairs receiving a salary next year. The resolution does not state a specific amount but gets them closer to their goal of paying chairs, Carr said. The resolution passed with 28 votes in affirmation, four in negation and with five abstentions.

Defending the Craft Studio

The Craft Studio is an MSA auxiliary whose funding was scaled back because of its increase in revenue last fiscal year.

The reason there was a reduction in funding for the Craft Studio was because its projected revenue for fiscal year 2015 to 2016 is $8,102, which is an increase. Vega and MSA Vice President Brenda Smith-Lezama said they wanted to allocate more funds to smaller organizations that couldn’t make as much money on their own.

“Our main focus was not only the fact that they showed an increase but also the potential that they can make revenue at all,” Vega said. “There are very few organizations funded by MSA that can make back revenue. The Craft Studio has craft classes and the crafts they make to sell so they can bring in large chunks of money, but other organizations don’t have the same capacity for revenue generations.”

Secretary of Auxiliaries Chris Hanner is working on increasing the Craft Studio’s funding. He spoke against a proposal of decreasing the Craft Studio’s budget by $2,000 during full Senate on April 1. During the next full Senate on April 8, he will push to increase their allocations.

“I don’t think the Craft Studio deserves the cuts they’re currently at,” Hanner said. “The Craft Studio really becomes a home for people. It’s a place where you can get your mind off school and all your other responsibilities and just relax. It’s important to people that they have that creative outlet.”

Hanner said he wants to make sure the Craft Studio has enough funding to maintain their graduate assistant who plays an important role in the organization. Without a graduate assistant, the studio would decrease its classes, which would lead to a decrease in revenue and services the space offers, Hanner said.

They are unsure of how much money that will take, but they will know at the April 8 full Senate meeting when the new allocation is proposed, Hanner said.

Studio coordinator Kelsey Hammond was unable to be reached for comment.

Extra money found before break could possibly be added to the Craft Studio’s funding, but nothing is decided yet for sure, Vega said.

The RSVP Center’s move to Student Life freed up about $24,000. Then, Student Legal Services decided to eliminate their nighttime lawyer because of underutilization of the position. This allows another $6,000 more to be reallocated to other organizations.

Vega said these changes are not definite.

“Everything is still fluid at this point,” he said. “But we are looking to possibly give some back to the Craft Studio, (the Department of Student Services) or STRIPES. The goal for the injection of this extra money is to try to make it go the farthest. We’re trying to probably give chunks of money back to organizations who are on the smaller side and who can’t generate other funds. We’re trying to stretch this $6,000 the farthest and get it in the best way it could possibly be spent.”

The budget is scheduled for approval by MSA Senate on April 8 and will need a two-thirds vote to pass.

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