SGA follows through on stipend funding shift


Photo courtesy Chris Brown

Chris Brown and Gabby Nobile respectively serve as president and executive vice president of SGA.

Jessica Silverman, news staff

At its Oct. 7 meeting, the Student Government Association, or SGA, Senate approved a change to its stipend funding allocation with unanimous consent. The measure drastically changes both how much money executive board members will receive and where the money will come from. 

For the 2019-20 year, instead of coming from the Student Activity Fee, the money will come from SGA’s cash account, which consists of crowdsourced money from past fundraising. Additionally, stipend funding was cut from $21,250 to $5,500, which will be shared by five board members who requested need-based stipends. 

Last year, the money was divided between the nine executive board and cabinet members, who received $2,250 each, and the parliamentarian and elections chair, who received $500 each. This year, four executive board and cabinet members will receive $1,250 each, with one member receiving $500 in a reduction request. Financial need for stipends was determined using an honor system.

SGA President Chris Brown said the stipends are important to the accessibility of the SGA.

“Not being able to afford to hold this position should never be the limitation of serving and advocating for the Northeastern student body,” Brown said.

The stipend has been controversial in the past, with some students concerned that it took money away from university-funded clubs. Some organizations like the Northeastern University College Republicans went as far as sponsoring a ballot question to eliminate SGA stipends.

Brown said he made changing stipend funding one of his first priorities for this year.

“Last year, myself and former President [Dylan] Balcom agreed that the Student Activity Fee should not fund Student Government Association stipends,” Brown said. “We did not want money that could go to student organizations to be directed to specific students, even if it were to support student leaders working on behalf of other students. It has always been the plan to keep stipends for those student leaders who needed them.”

Brown said he was excited that the Senate saw the importance of the proposal and supported the plan.

“We are thrilled that this passed with unanimous consent. The executive board does important work and it is necessary that these positions remain accessible to all students, regardless of their financial background. The Senate rightfully recognized the importance of stipends based on financial need,” he said. 

SGA Senator Ryan Wallace, a first-year political science major, was also excited about the passing of the stipends.

“I’m glad that we, as a Senate, adopted this stipend proposal through unanimous consent. It demonstrates precisely how we, as a governing body, are willing to trust the judgment of our executive board members and move along with the direction of modernizing our government’s rules and procedures,” Wallace said.

SGA previously tried to confirm students’ financial need by gathering information from the Department of Student Financial Services, but Brown said the department refused to provide the information, arguing that disclosure of the information would be a breach of contract.

During the debate regarding the proposal, Senator Peter Siccardi, a third-year electrical engineering major, argued that because of the nature of the proposal, future SGA executive boards wouldn’t be held to the same standard. He found this to be an issue because in future years, stipends could come from the Student Activity Fee once again.

“I supported the new proposal that the current executive board made to the Senate,” Siccardi said. “However, it bothers me that this is not a policy change. Instead it is a temporary shift for this specific executive board and how they operate … I believe all future executive boards should be held to the same standards that are being set by this executive board when it comes to stipends.”

Brown and the rest of the executive board responded by explaining that if a senator wished to change this, they could propose legislation of their own. Because this wasn’t an official form of legislation, there was no way to make any changes to what was being proposed.

“We believe the existing system is best as it allows for the executive board to decide for themselves what they need to do. They, of course, cannot act unilaterally and would always need the Senate’s permission to any [SGA] money for stipends,” Brown said. “They will be held to the same standard of executive board and Senate approval, but they won’t necessarily need to follow the precedent that we have set this year.”