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Head to head: SLC debate shows representatives out of touch with students

By Saima Asad, April 4 2017 —

The March 28 Students’ Legislative Council meeting featured a 30-minute long discussion on a motion brought forward by the Policy Development and Review Committee to remove the $50 bonuses that faculty representatives are eligible to receive on a monthly basis. While I was happy to see this motion fail, I am disappointed in the nature of the discussion that took place. The comments from SLC members represent a detachment from the overall student experience.

As a university student with little time between classes and assignments, I’ve had to debate whether I should spend time volunteering at places that are meaningful to me or working soul-sucking jobs to make ends meet. This dilemma between getting experience and earning money is one that many students face. However, the proponents of the motion argued that the experience reps at SLC get outweighs the $50 monthly bonuses.

Cumming School of Medicine representative Sam Sirianni sits on PDRC and was a strong supporter of the motion.

“You are rewarded through the experiences and connections that you build,” she said before the vote.

But as Faculty of Law representative Mark Shearer — an opponent of the policy — said, “the experiences are great. They don’t buy groceries.”

This emphasis on experience over pay comes from a place of privilege to which many students cannot relate. SU president-elect Branden Cave campaigned on engaging more students with the SU, but his position on this motion represents the exact opposite. Had the bonuses been repealed, it would have made student government even more exclusive to those who can afford to be there.

PDRC’s argument that students should serve on SLC out of a desire rather than pay is completely groundless. Asking for compensation for your work does not make you any less competent or hard-working as a representative.

“This should be a job that you want to be engaged in and represent the students in your faculty rather than just wanting to be paid for it,” Sirianni said during the debate.

Even though the policy failed, stances like Sirianni’s are concerning. Policies like this are likely going to come up at SLC again. And representatives on SLC need to properly understand the experiences of the students they’re representing.

No alternatives were suggested for where the roughly $8,000 from these bonuses would go if revoked, as that decision would have rested in the hands of the 75th SLC, and even though the motion failed, similar policies will likely be brought forward next year, as many members of PDRC will sit on SLC next year. It’s important for these members to value the input they recieved from the 74th SLC.

The struggle between finding experiences that are meaningful and work that pays the bills is something many students face. PDRC’s failure to sympathize with this is alarming. The discussion at SLC shows a disconnect between elected officials and the students they represent. If next year’s SLC wants to do a good job representing the student body, they need to be more in tune with to the experiences of those students.

This article is part of a head to head. Click here to read the other side of the argument.

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