The Associated Students unanimously passed a bill that raises the honorarium cap of A.S. elected and appointed officials and senators on Wednesday, to go into effect during the 2021-22 school year.
The bill will make Associated Students (A.S.) spaces — including Boards, Commissions and Units (BCU), the 38 organizations that work within A.S. to provide and organize student events, advocacy and leadership — more accessible to low-income, first generation and marginalized students, according to the bill’s author, Senator Esme Quintero-Cubillan.
Honorarium, the quarterly stipend allotted to A.S. officials and senators for their work in A.S., was previously capped at $200 for BCU, Executive Office, and Judicial Council officials, $350 for BCU, Executive Office, and Judicial Council leadership, and $400 for all senators per quarter, regardless of their senate leadership roles.
The new bill extends the honorarium cap, allowing BCU, Executive Office, and Judicial Council officials and senators to be eligible for up to an additional $100 per quarter. That would allow BCU, Executive Office, and Judicial Council officials to receive up to $300, BCU, Executive Office, Judicial Council leadership up to $450 and senators up to $500.
Senators serving as pro-tempores or committee chairs are eligible for another incremental raise of up to $100 per quarter, making them eligible for up to $600 per quarter. Senators serving as vice-chairs are eligible for an incremental raise of up to $50 per quarter, making them eligible for up to $550 per quarter, according to Quintero-Cubillan.
While the bill does not apply to A.S. executive positions, the Senate will be voting on a bill—authored by Senator Manny Roman— to raise executive’s honorarium next Wednesday.
Quintero-Cubillan also said the bill will augment the evaluation processes for senators’ honorarium, making the honorarium eligibility criteria more specific.
The highest-ranking member of the Senate and Senate Standing Committees will evaluate each senator’s eligibility for the full monetary allocations, with 20% of honoraria for Senate attendance, 10% for holding sufficient office hours, 25% for involvement and attendance at committee meetings, 10% for group project participation, 10% for legislation contributions and 25% for remaining A.S. responsibilities.
“Honoraria is a cap,” Quintero-Cubillan said. “We are increasing that cap, we are not changing how much they make. That is still dependent on the work that they do and their evaluations.”
“Are you participating? Are you actively contributing to the Senate? Are you discussing line items? Are you really working? And are you representing the student body?” she questioned. “I want to make sure that in the future, the senators who do go into the Senate are held accountable for their participation and whether or not they’re actually doing work.”
The bill states that the highest-ranking official for each BCU, Executive Office, and Judicial Council will be responsible for submitting an evaluation of each official’s completion of their job responsibilities to determine their honoraria for the quarter. The Honoraria Committee will then review the evaluations and submit final recommendations to the Senate.
The bill had 40 student sponsors, an anomaly when considering the number of student sponsors on most other bills. Some of the sponsors, including Diana Garcia, the co-chairperson of the Environmental Justice Alliance, spoke at last Wednesday’s Senate public forum, when the bill was introduced, about how the eligibility increase could make A.S. spaces more equitable.
“I have seen how overworked and underpaid many students are, attending the countless meetings and navigating the bureaucracies of A.S. to address the needs within their respective communities,” Garcia said.
“Providing the option for BCUs to increase their honorarium for board members is essential to make A.S. a more welcoming and accessible space for marginalized students by properly compensating and appreciating their work,” she continued.
Lizzy Mau, the publicity chair of the Environmental Justice Alliance, echoed Garcia’s statements.
“Financial compensation is necessary when students have to put in extra labor to organize programs for the university that the university doesn’t personally provide,” Mau said. “I’ve had to grapple and choose between using my time to work my job or dedicate time to do the work for [the Environmental Justice Alliance].”
“It’s really hard, it’s when you’re choosing to see what will pay for groceries at the end of the day,” she continued.
The extra honoraria money will come from BCU and Senate rollover funding, Quintero-Cubillan said. Money that is not spent from the past year’s budget will be reimbursed to the BCUs and Senate to pay for the bill in the 2021-22 school year, meaning next year’s budget will remain untouched by the bill.
“Everything in the Association will end up remaining the same, but we have that little boost, which ends up totaling about $300,000 across the association,” they said.
If a BCU doesn’t have the appropriate funding for the honoraria increase, A.S. will pay it. But this year, every BCU had the leftover funds, something that Quintero-Cubillan ensured beforehand so that “everyone could actually afford it.”
While the bill required a two-thirds majority in the Senate to pass, it was passed unanimously. Senators elected to the 2021-22 senate, as well as senators planning to work with a BCU for the 2021-22 school year, recused themselves from the vote.
Quintero-Cubillan noted that the bill passed unanimously because of internal work within the senate, including addressing individual senators’ concerns and bringing the bill to the Internal Affairs Committee several times.
“We have repeatedly tried bringing it forward. And this was like the fourth time of bringing it to the Senate. So this is almost a year of us working on this,” she said of the bill, which has been in the works since summer 2020.
To Quintero-Cubillan, the bill is not only a step in the right direction for increasing student accessibility and fair financial compensation in A.S. spaces, but also increases accountability.
“It’s not just about increasing honoraria,” they said. “It’s also increasing accountability and ensuring that ‘Yes, you’re receiving an increase, but do you deserve it? Do you deserve to receive $300?’”
“I’m really excited to see the additional changes come from having more accountability and honoraria committees,” she said.