By: Jonah Lewis, Contributing Writer
The Towson University Student Government Association pushed back a vote on a bill that would give senators a biannual $350 stipend during Tuesday’s meeting due to constitutionality and fiscal concerns.
The proposal, Resolution 24, would incentivize being an SGA senator and encourage active participation in the role, Sen. Aneme Ikpe said.
To earn the stipend, senators must have served at least five hours of SGA activities per semester. A stipend committee would then verify the senators’ eligibility to receive the funds, which would be paid as a lump sum at the end of each semester.
Ikpe plans to pay for the stipend by taking money from the unused executive budget at the end of the fiscal year. For the fiscal year 2022, this was estimated to be $59,791.88.
The resolution was called into question by senators and members of the Executive Team, who inquired about the bill’s constitutionality. Members wondered whether the constitution would have to be amended to provide the stipend and where the budget for it would be coming from.
President Jordan Colquitt and Treasurer Mayra Corea said the SGA itself could not use the unspent funds from the previous fiscal year.
“That money is a cushion for us if we are ever in debt,” Corea said. “That is in the reserves.”
Colquitt said that changes to the budget must be approved by Vernon Hurte, the vice president of Student Affairs, in accordance with Article Four, Section Five of the SGA’s Standing Rules of Order.
“I would suggest to not touch our rainy-day fund,” Colquitt said.
Ikpe said the SGA should give senators a stipend because other student governments around Maryland already do, including the University of Baltimore, Frostburg State University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
The referenced student governments have fewer members than Towson’s, with UBalt represented by three senators and UMBC boasting 11 senators with one vacancy. Towson’s SGA has up to 25 senators representing its student body.
Regarding enrollment numbers, Towson had over 19,000 students during the fall 2022 semester compared to UMBC’s 13,991. Frostburg saw a little more than 4,000 students enrolled last fall and UBalt saw about 3,200.
Several members were also concerned about the size of the stipend.
At $350 per semester, the proposed stipend is much larger than what other universities’ student governments pay their representatives, according to Ikpe’s presentation.
As of 2019, student government officials at Frostburg make a minimum of $100 yearly. Members of their executive team make $200 yearly.
SGA senators at the University of Baltimore make $90 per semester. It is unknown what their executive team members make.
Ikpe said she got this information from officers in the referenced student governments at a summit over the weekend. Because of the disparity, some members of the voting body disagreed with the comparatively large sum proposed by Ikpe.
“I am thinking that the [stipend amount] should be lower compared to UB because, according to your data, they only have two senators, which is why they make so much,” Assistant Director of Marketing Selena Pinkney said. “And we have a lot of senators, so, to me, it looks that UB has more work with it only being two of them.”
It is unclear if student tuition would be affected by the passing of the resolution.
Towson’s SGA currently pays its executive team, senate leadership, directors and chief justice. These officers earn the university’s minimum wage of $15 per hour. However, most senators are not paid.
Assistant directors and associate justices would not be included in the resolution.
When asked why she focused on senators in her proposal, Ikpe said, “because that’s what I am, and it appeals more to me.” She said she would be open to expanding payment options to more members if the resolution is passed.
Ikpe was told to return to next week’s meeting with solutions to the concerns.
Aside from the stipend bill, the SGA also voted Tuesday to confirm Muhammad Tayyab as the new assistant director of special projects. Tayyab will aid the Director of Special Projects, Alaa Malash, in her duties.
During deliberations, Director of Civic Engagement and Sustainability Jayden Johnstone voiced support for Tayyab, calling him “a very good fit for the position.”
Malash also supported Tayyab in the role.
“Muhammad and I are good friends,” Malash said. “He is very helpful and shows up to events, and he does so much for us. He is doing what needs to be done.”