The 2012-13 IU Student Association budget, which was passed a few weeks ago, has created deep misunderstandings among constituents, IUSA President Kyle Straub said.
In particular, the reinstatement of executive salaries has been a point of contention for opinion leaders throughout IU.
“People make assumptions,” Straub said. “There are many misunderstandings because communication hadn’t been made.”
For the past 20 years, executive salaries have been a standard part of the IUSA budget, Straub said. The 2011-12 budget did not have them. Throughout the past five years, IUSA has been putting more and more money into initiatives, Straub said. The administration elected in 2011 ran on the promise that it would not take salaries in order to place more emphasis on these initiatives.
“Unfortunately, we came to realize this was a major disadvantage,” Straub said.
This year’s budget grants $3,000 to each of the executive positions, representing about a fifth of the budget. These salaries are accompanied by analysis of performance by administrators, who can withhold the money if job performance isn’t up to par, Straub said.
“Had there been performance incentive last year, we may have been able to achieve more, but we can’t know for sure,” Straub said. “No compensation really means no consequence for focusing on things other than IUSA.”
Straub was IUSA treasurer last year and was present when the non-salary policy was in effect.
“With salaries, you can’t back down from the students you represent,” current IUSA Treasurer Casey Baker said.
Salaries were implemented because the executive positions took up so much of the students’ time, Assistant Director of Student Life and Learning R.J. Woodring said. They work 20 hours per week on top of academic responsibilities, so they wouldn’t have time to take on a part-time job or internship.
“I’m fairly sure if you do the math, it adds up to less than minimum wage,” Woodring said.
Straub agreed and said they average about $3 an hour.
IU’s student government is not unusual in offering salaries to executive members. Student executives at other universities receive not only salaries but large tuition breaks, Woodring said.
IU student executives do not receive discounted tuition. Salaries were reduced from $4,000 to $3,000 this year, as well.
“Compared to their peers in student government, they get paid modestly for what they do,” Woodring said.
Straub’s administration faced early controversy for running unopposed, and it has faced recent criticism for taking salaries after having no competition. It hopes the re-institution of salaries will encourage groups to run.
“No one has run unopposed in 10 years,” Baker said.
Woodring was unsure if reinstating salaries would incentivize more tickets to run on the ballot. Yet he emphasized that even though the current members ran unopposed, they did not minimize the work they put into their positions.
“It’s not their fault they ran unopposed,” he said. “IUSA has the ability to make a big impact. There’s no reason students shouldn’t seek this opportunity.”
Salaries are not the only talking point this year. A $10,000 marketing budget is a notable difference from past budgets, contrasted with a smaller initiative budget. This shift in expenses is only really in name, Straub said.
“Marketing and advertising covers a lot of efforts and initiatives,” Baker said. “There’s high importance on getting information out to people.”
“We’re just reallocating it,” Straub said. “Instead of putting it all in initiative funds, they are all put under the marketing label.”
Despite the smaller initiative budget, the administration reiterated that it did not reflect initiatives that did not require funding. Having a say in university decisions, for example, reflected a lot of effort but little spending by the IUSA, Straub said.
Often, IUSA collaborates with other organizations to cover expenses, Baker explained. At the end of the day, the budget is only a guide.
“The role of the budget is to help plan for the expenses of the upcoming year and is not the exact breakdown of the spending,” Straub said. “Plans are not set in stone. You have no idea what barriers or expenses will come up.”
The Lauren Spierer campaign last year was a striking example of that, Baker explained.
“Who would have guessed that would have happened?” she said. “You can’t always plan for what the campus needs.”
IUSA often over-budgets in order to compensate for sudden expenditures, Straub said. Any money not spent goes to reserves to be used later in the year.
Despite this, many students misunderstand or make assumptions about the budget, Straub said.
“During my time as treasurer, not once was I asked to elaborate on the composition of the line items in our budget,” he said. “People see labels and assume to know what they entail.”
Not everything they are working on is printed in the budget, he said.
“It’s like a business,” he said. “A lot of people only base their opinions on financial information, but there are things you can’t learn by just looking at the numbers.”