Executives review hourly tuition waivers

A potential student government bylaw change is causing past student executive members to voice their opinions and support for a reduction in tuition waivers from 12-credit hours to nine-credit hours.

Alison Mormino, the 2002-2003 student body president, said the compensation of the executive members get should not cost more than the programs they are constitutionally obligated to have.

“I think it’s a matter of looking at priorities and if your priority is the student body as a whole, then you should be able to cut the amount of compensation,” Mormino said.

Eric Wilber, the 2008-2010 executive vice president, was one of the six past student government executive members, along with Mormino, who wrote a “letter to the editor” saying they were in favor a tuition waiver reduction.

“Over in Springfield, I’m required to take 24 furlough days – depending on how I take it, that’s a 5 to 10 percent pay cut,” Wilber said.

Eastern’s student executive members get more compensation than any other school across Illinois, Wilber said.

Student Senate member Roberto Luna, a co-writer of the current student government bylaw change, said he announced his idea for the bylaw change during a weekly council of chairs meeting; a meeting where the committee chairs of student government meet with the student senate speaker.

Luna, a junior finance major, said he first realized how much the executive tuition waivers could impact student government as a whole during an Apportionment Board meeting.

“I noticed that it was close to 65 percent of the overall student government budget,” Luna said.

Luna said if the bylaw change gets passed, the senate would have approximately $7,068 to put back into programs that would benefit the student body.

“We’ve been a part of enough organizations where we do our work for free- it shouldn’t be about the compensation you receive,” Luna said. “It’s unfair to the students to have them paying all this money when they aren’t necessarily getting anything from it.”

Student executives deserved some form of compensation but the amount of compensation should correlate with the financial times, Wilber said.

“It’s going to get so out of hand that you are going to crowd out the rest of student government’s budget,” Wilber said.

The decision to cut programs should come before the decision to cut tuition waivers, Wilber said.

Budget cuts are taking place all across Illinois and the country and now is the time to re-access where student fees are going, Wilber said.

“Do you want to compensate six individuals or do you want pay for programs that benefit all 12,000 students,” Wilber said. “That’s money that could go to additional prizes for First Night.”

During the first cut student government budget request, Student Body President Michelle Murphy said she had to cut line items that were no longer operational because of the budget restriction.

“I don’t see how six executive tuition waivers are more operational than programs that can directly affect the students,” Mormino said.

Student Senate Speaker Jarrod Scherle said the past student government executives who voiced their opinion did not have the high tuition costs the current executives have.

Some of those people have been out of Eastern for almost seven years, Scherle said.

“Sure there is financial pressure, but there always is- if you are deciding to run for a position then you have to weigh that,” Wilber said.

While the cost of tuition has risen, the student government executive constitutional duties have not, Wilber said.

According to Laurel Fuqua, Aaron Wiessing, a junior management information systems major, was impeached and resigned as the student executive vice president, but was not required to return the $2,616 tuition waiver he received for the 2010 fall semester.

Fuqua is the account technician for the Student Life Office.

“You can’t really take back a scholarship,” Scherle said.

Tuition is the majority of the student government’s budget now but back then it might have only been 25 percent of their budget, Scherle said.

“If we don’t get that waiver that’s several thousand dollars that falls upon (the executives),” Scherle said.

A lot of the past executive members came to Eastern during the last recession so they understand financial difficulties, Wilber said.

“We put in hours every week. Just like staff members on campus,” Scherle said. “Do you ask why graduate assistants get tuition waivers and they get almost $800 a month- it’s because they are working for someone.”

Resident Assistants get room and board, which covers way more than student government waivers, Scherle said.

“The University of Illinois of Urbana-Champaign (executive members) don’t get any compensation whatsoever,” Luna said

The tuition waivers are like a scholarship that acts as an incentive for the student leadership on the student government to go above and beyond for the student body, Scherle said.

“It’s a way of holding people accountable because they are essentially working for the students,” Scherle said.

Nike Ogunbodede can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction April 20, 2011:

Past student executive members voiced their opinions and support for a reduction in tuition waivers to nine-credit hours. The DEN regrets the error.