By ANNE SHEN ’17
As College Government (CG) candidates vie for votes on the ballot this year, the Wellesley student body will also choose between two ballot initiatives: Student Leadership Stipend (SLS) and Wellesley S.M.I.L.E.S (Spontaneous Moments in the Lives of Everyday Students).
Each year Wellesley reserves $11,000, two percent of the Student Activity Fee, for students to improve life on campus.The SLS initiative would divide the money between residential assistants (RAs), house presidents (HPs) and CG cabinet members who receive either Wellesley financial aid or federal financial aid. According to the proposal, Kris Niendorf, cosponsor of the initiative and director of residential and campus life, will distribute the stipend in conjunction with Student Financial Services during the 2014-2015 school year.
Because 98 percent of Wellesley students live on campus, many activities such as teas and house councils take place in residence halls. Unlike most other colleges in the United States, Wellesley HPs and RAs do not receive financial compensation from the College.
“I personally support SLS because I think it’s super important to support Res Life staff and other student leaders since they devote a ton of time to Wellesley,” Carey Cabrera ’16 stated, “Especially because in most schools, RAs get rooms free and at Wellesley we don’t have that option.”
According to the students who authored the SLS proposal, Brittany Lamon-Paredes ’15 and Kaley Haskell ’14, this lack of compensation creates financial barriers for students who must work to cover college expenses.
In order to open student leadership positions to more applicants, Lamon-Paredes and Haskell hope to show that the student body supports programs that remove economic barriers on campus, which may promote the permanent institutionalization of stipends for student leaders.
However, the SLS ballot initiative has received student support several times in the past and has been providing stipends to eligible student leaders since the 2011-2012 school year.
In the past few years, the SLS ballot initiative committee worked with Student Organization Funding Committee (SOFC) to expand sources of stipend funds to include college organization donations. With Senate approval, SOFC can allow clubs to contribute 10 percent of their remaining SOFC funds to the stipend. The ballot initiative ad hoc committee currently meets monthly to administer funds, grow the stipend and develop the initiative.
“If passed by a majority of the student body, the 2013-2014 ballot initiative funds will sustain the Student Leader Stipend as a gesture of our students’ continued appreciation for the service of our Residential Life Staff and College Government Executives,” reads the SLS initiative statement.
The second ballot initiative, Wellesley S.M.I.L.E.S., has organized events, which they call SMILEs, around campus this past year. Many students took part in the treasure hunt on Severance Green, joined the flash mobs in Bates Hall and Tower Hall or took balloons from dining halls.
The S.M.I.L.E.S. events are coordinated by Wellesley S.M.I.L.E.S founders Hannah Ruebeck ’16 and Anne Dickinson Meltz ’16. The two students created S.M.I.L.E.S. to combat stress culture and foster community at Wellesley.
“Our initiative is important to Wellesley because it reminds us all — and gives every student the opportunity — to take a moment to smile and to pass that smile on to someone else,” Ruebeck said.
Because S.M.I.L.E.S. is not yet constituted, the events were funded by an alumna donation of $1,000 specifically for Wellesey S.M.I.L.E.S. However, Ruebeck and Dickinson Meltz wish to expand the program to all corners of the campus, which was not always possible this year due to budget constraints.
The proposed budget for the S.M.I.L.E.S. ballot initiative divides the $11,000 into three parts: $5,000 for increasing the size and scope of events, $1,000 to fund student-organized SMILES and $5,000 for creating permanent SMILE installations around Wellesley.
This year, the cost of the 14 SMILES ranged from $15 to $200 each with an average of approximately $75 per event. Though Ruebeck and Dickinson Meltz plan to maintain the same number of events next year, they want to expand the reach and visibility of S.M.I.L.E.S. by increasing the average budget to $350 per event. However, the two do not want to limit SMILES to just what they host; they plan to allocate $1,000 for 8 other student-group-sponsored events with a budget of $125 each.
“We want to use some of the funds to connect groups around campus with the greater Wellesley community by throwing their own SMILES,” Dickinson Meltz said.
If the ballot initiative passes, organizations, athletic teams and groups of friends will be welcome to host an event, and S.M.I.L.E.S. will provide some ideas, funds and support. In addition, Ruebeck and Dickinson Meltz will dedicate $5,000 to creating permanent places for students to start conversations and foster connections with each other, such as picnic tables for students to paint or beanbag chairs in designated “no-study” zones.
Next year, they aim to bring four to five of these installations to campus with a budget of $1,000 to $1,250 per SMILE.
“Happiness is invaluable, and our mission is simple: to bring more smiles to the faces of Wellesley student,” Meltz said. “This $11,000 isn’t just a cash prize — it is an opportunity to make a real difference in the Wellesley community. And that is what Wellesley S.M.I.L.E.S. is here to do.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly suggested Emma Farrow ’14 helped organize of the SLS ballot initiative this year. Though she authored the original SLS proposal in the 2011-2012 academic year, Farrow is not a member of the SLS ballot initiative committee this year. The Wellesley News regrets this error.