Senate Seeks to Adjust 10-Hour Pay Cap

Student Senate is currently in negotiations with the Dean of Students Office to extend a cap on its paid working hours that was implemented at the beginning of the academic year. The 10-hour cap was originally introduced to relieve the burden of work, however some senators feel that the cap does not accurately reflect the necessary workload of certain Senate positions

At the end of the 2019-2020 academic year, Student Senate began the process of rewriting its bylaws. The group brought in Kenyon College’s Dean of Campus Life Laura Kane to provide recommendations. Kane noted that senators were working more hours than their counterparts at other comparable colleges and universities and suggested lowering the burden on Senate through a decreased time commitment and greater administrative support. 

“The main takeaway from my work was that the Senate needed to appear more accessible,” Kane said. “Clarity about the general expectation for time commitments is an essential component. … Having a clear time commitment can allow the opportunity for students to manage their time better and perhaps continue to engage in other meaningful ways. I heard from a handful of students that there were often resignations due to the unexpected burden of work and expectations of time.” 

Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo agreed with this recommendation and the Dean of Students Office decided to cap the number of paid hours Senators work. There is academic literature that indicates student performance and mental health declines when full-time students work above 10 hours.   

“When Student Senate works as a collaborative body, it can collectively devote over 100 hours of week to its work with the 10 hour cap,” Raimondo wrote in an email to the Review. “I am confident that a thoughtful approach to collaboration means that Senate can find positive strategies to complete its work.”

Additionally, the current cap includes some leniency, although it requires Senators to know ahead of time which weeks will be busier.

“There’s a little bit of nuance to [the cap] though,” said College fourth-year and Student Senator Caleb Knapp. “The current plan, as it is, Senate is allowed to work up to 10 hours a week with the exception of four weeks, where, if we get permission from [the Student Finance Committee]  in advance, then we can work up to 15 [hours].”

However, because Senate must inform the administration in advance of each 15-hour week, College third-year and Senate Finance Committee Co-Chair Arman Luczkow says the plan is not feasible given that last-minute situations often require senators to put in extra hours. 

According to some senators, Student Senate was told that the cap was a joint decision made by SFC, Director of Orientation and Student Activities Tina Zwegat, and the administration. However, according to Luczkow, SFC was not consulted on the decision, and was only informed of it after the fact. 

“It does actually seem like it was an admin decision that’s sort of being tagged onto SFC,” Luczkow said. “But they had no idea why it was made and they’d even be open to possibly change it.” 

Although most Student Senators don’t work more than 10 hours per week, some positions such as chair, vice-chair, or SFC liaison have routinely required a greater time commitment.

“I think [a] 10-hour blanket cap doesn’t make any sense,” Luczkow said. “For example, especially for chair and vice-chair, there’s no way you’re going under 10 [hours] … because they’re running the organization, they have way more meetings, they have more things to keep track of. My opinion is that the hour cap should depend upon the position of the specific senator.”

Even for Senators who do not hold a specific leadership position in Senate, the 10-hour cap can pose a challenge based on the kind of projects they are working on. 

“So for example, when I was Vice-Chair, I probably worked anywhere from, low end, eight to ten hours,” said Knapp. “The week that the board came, I’d probably work 20, 25 hours. So it’s really a range, but I would say on average, anywhere from like seven to 12. … It really just depends on the position and the kinds of stuff that people are doing. It could be anywhere from four or five hours at an absolute minimum to … as much as your heart desired.”

According to Luczkow, SFC would be open to changing the current 10-hour cap to a position-specific cap, or raising the cap to 15 hours for all senators. Discussions about increasing the cap are ongoing.