One of the more interesting practices of our lovely Student Government here at UF is that we actually pay some of our students in certain positions. Usually people don’t really talk about it much, more than the yearly SG debate question of if one will take or donate their salary. That being said, I was happy to see The Alligator article by the SG reporter on current Student Body President Ian Green using a bit of his salary toward buying suits for recent high school graduates from his hometown since it both illustrates a heartwarming use of one’s salary and also touched upon the topic of how much SG officials are paid.
Our budget goes to the level of specificity of “SG Officer's Salary” to the tune of $49,000. The rest you have to do some digging to find out. For example, the Alligator reporter emailed the SG finance manager to find out the president’s salary is $10,361.26. I put in a public records request last year to find out the vice president gets $8,121.10 and the treasurer gets $8,849.88.
But wait, there’s more! SG executives in the Senate also get paid. For their six-month terms, the Senate president gets $4,065.36 while the Senate president pro tempore (second in command within the Senate) gets $3,270.80. Finally there are the two special executive agency heads of Accent and Student Government Productions (SGP) who also get paid. In case you’re not familiar, Accent is the agency that brings in prominent and insightful speakers to campus while SGP does the same for music/entertainment talent (Summer staff applications close May 25, in case you’re interested). While my public records request didn’t encompass what their salaries were, I wouldn't be surprised if they received several thousand dollars for their time and efforts as well.
These numbers should be pretty accurate even though I put my public records request in during the previous fiscal year, seeing how the total sum put toward officer salaries didn’t change between this and last year.
Everyone else? Free labor, I suppose. It’s personally a bit tough since I get by during my summers via the good grace of God, Bright Futures, my jobs and some external scholarships. That’s why I personally see the salaries as a potential good since they can be there for those of us who aren’t exactly well-endowed. The positions who get salaries are mostly required to stay for the Summer or at the very least serve office hours/do a substantial amount of work. But many hours of hard work and staying for the Summer isn’t exclusive to these positions, which leaves me wishing we could do more for the rest of SG. Having Summer Bright Futures helps a lot, for sure, but I wonder what we can do as an organization to improve the experience of our public servants (or greedy resume-line-grabbers, depending on who you ask and who you’re asking about).
We’ve also had some individuals who didn’t need their salaries: a couple years ago, executive branch officers donated their salaries toward the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program, which supports first-generation, low-income undergraduate students. I will admit that when I first was accepted to UF back in 2016 and was poking around into different political parties’ Facebook pages, the wholesome act did catch my eye in a good way.
It’s always good to keep an eye on what your public servants are up to. Does the work they do line up with what they get paid? My guess is that we can all agree we probably should have withheld Smith Meyers’ salary (given the damage he did to UF). At least with Green we should take note of his recent generosity and hope that other salaried SG officers (who are financially able) also consider using their public money for public good.
Questions, comments or concerns? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zachariah Chou is a UF political science sophomore and Murphree Area Senator. His column focuses on Student Government.