This coming Wednesday, the student body will vote on whether or not to compensate Wellesley College Government by using approximately 3% of the Students Activities Fund. Cabinet pay has been a popular topic with regards to financial accessibility at Wellesley. In recent years, there have been issues with Wellesley students not running for Cabinet positions or having to drop out because they cannot afford to be on Cabinet without having a paying job. It seems to be a common assumption that if Cabinet were to be compensated, a lot of the issues facing College Government would be eliminated. Indeed, if we were to pay them, more people would run and the organization will once again be the voice to the administration that the student body craves. However, if we simply pay College Government to continue the work that they are currently doing, we are not going to fix the issues that students have with CG transparency.
I believe that CG should be paid for the work that they do to improve the student body. The group’s purpose is to listen to the concerns of the student body and to effect positive change on campus. Unfortunately, there have been times when the student body felt that the lack of transparency and efficiency has limited the success of the body. Given that CG Cabinet deals with a lot of confidential information, there are some things that the student body will not be able to know. However, there have been instances where students do not know the committees that are a part of CG or the functions CG performs on campus.
One of the main issues concerning cabinet pay is ensuring that Cabinet is held accountable to the student body once they are paid. According to the frequently asked questions written by the leaders of the cabinet pay initiative, The Special Ethics Committee (SPEC) will oversee Cabinet and make sure that they are held accountable to both their campaign platforms and the student body. If students choose not to go through SPEC, they can voice concerns at weekly Senate meetings or inform their own student Senator. In addition, the community can come together to formally impeach a cabinet member if they see fit.
Although solutions are provided to hold cabinet accountable, they are not substantial enough to truly ensure that Cabinet does their job effectively. First, SPEC is not a widely known committee of College Government. Consequently, students who have grievances may not know how to report to them. Second, publicly voicing a concern about a member of CG by attending Senate or through a representative is easier said than done. Senate is a small body that is attended mostly by senators representing various residence halls and student organizations. Students at large rarely attend. If a student wishes to bring up a grievance to the body, they may not know about the nature of Senate unless they keep up with it regularly. Technology has made this increasingly difficult since students can now digest their emails, condensing a large amount of information. Lastly, the impeachment process laid out in the CG Constitution is long and requires coordination from a substantial number of students. For an impeachment to go through, either ¼ of the student body or ⅔ of the Senate must sign a petition. Then, there must be a discussion on the Senate floor followed by ⅔ majority vote. The process outlined in the constitution requires a substantial amount of effort and coordination by the student body that is not realistic in an environment like Wellesley. If we want the process to be effective, it must be streamlined.
Compensation is definitely a step in the right direction in making College Government more accessible to students who have not been able to participate for financial reasons. However, if Cabinet is to be compensated, they need to be subject to evaluation by the student body throughout the year. Simply having checks on cabinet that would be applicable in the event that they are not upholding standards is insufficient. Similar to other paid positions on campus, CG should be subject to evaluations every semester by those they represent: the student body. They should also be obligated to publish the work they are doing on our behalf. Although CG members do deal with confidential information, they should at least be able to keep the campus up to date with Senate initiatives and the programming they are leading within their respective committees. Perhaps this accountability could come in the form of regular meetings with SPEC that are open to the student body. In any case, as Cabinet functions now, it is incredibly difficult to hold them accountable for their work. Hopefully, compensation incentivizes Cabinet to follow through with initiatives, but since their compensation is coming from the students themselves, there needs to be an institutionalized system making sure we are getting our money’s worth.