‘Last resort’ picks pockets

ASU Board votes to use student fees to pay adviser’s salary

By Editorial Board, The Advocate

The Associated Student Union Board renewed its agreement to use student fees to pay for part of a full-time employee’s salary because the college administration couldn’t find funds elsewhere to pay it.

At the weekly public ASU meeting on April 19, only one ASU member voted against covering 25 percent of the student life coordinator position’s full-time salary using the $5 Student Activity Fee (SAF).

ASU Treasurer Arius Robinson said the district deposits SAF funds into the ASU’s operating budget annually to sponsor club events, scholarships or any student-led community projects.

And while using student fees to pay for college employee salaries does not violate any state, local or district mandate, it should.

Covering $17,656 of the salary for the position equates to about 3,531 students paying the $5 fee for one semester.

Former college vice president Tammeil Gilkerson and Dean of Student Services Vicki Ferguson asked the ASU Board to vote to use student fees to pay the rest of Student Life Coordinator Joel Nickelson-Shanks’  full-time salary.

This is a blatant conflict of interest.

There is no way for the ASU to refuse the conditions of Nicholson-Shanks’ salary agreement because the Student Life coordinator also is the ASU’s adviser, which they need to function as a student government.

And because this is the second year students will be absorbing the costs, without a campuswide statement or a written contract, this agreement is unethical.

ASU President Safi Ward-Davis explained that the former ASU Board initially agreed to pay 25 percent of his salary until 2018-19.

She said former ASU Board negotiated that there be annual approvals.

Ferguson said asking the ASU to pay for this college cost was a “last resort.”

The fact that the students are paying part of an employee’s salary tarnishes the claim of transparency that the ASU and administrators present to everyday students.

The ASU Board’s decision to approve the funding was not unanimous, and the one dissenting voice in the room spoke to the crux of the conflict.

“Don’t get me wrong,” ASU Senator Cynthia Anderson explained to the rest of the ASU Board. “I think he’s worth it, but I don’t think 25 percent of his salary should come from us. I feel we need to put more pressure on the district (to provide funds).”

There is no denying that the Student Life coordinator should be a full-time position to help foster a campus culture. But the cost should not be funded by the students — even if it is only for a few years until enrollment improves funding.

Ferguson cited restrictions on other state grants as the reason why she asked the student government to shoulder the costs until enrollment increases.

“We had to get guidance from Business Services (on the legality).” Ferguson said. “If (the ASU Board says) ‘no’ then the position would have to go back to .75. That would decrease hours of operation and activities.

The ASU Board needs to stand up for the student body, and just say “no.”

Having a full-time Student Life coordinator  is helpful — but students, who have to pay for tuition and textbooks, cannot afford these costs.