Associated Students Inc. is assessing the impact of a new pay structure implemented last spring that allows its undocumented officers to receive compensation for their service, according to ASI executives.
The pay structure became an issue during the fall 2015 semester, when then-ASI President Jose Salazar was disqualified from receiving fellowship grants due to his undocumented status. The ASI Board of Control, which has authority over ASI finances, proposed to switch the payment vehicle from fellowship grants to scholarships because all students, regardless of status, qualify for the latter.
Before his tenure as ASI president, Salazar did not file for his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which defers deportation for up to two years and grants work permits to undocumented people who were brought to the United States as children.
Many undocumented immigrants do not file for DACA out of fear that the status of their relatives may be compromised. Salazar himself petitioned the Board of Control to change the pay structure.
On April 27 of this year, ASI senate approved the Payment Bylaw Amendment, which allows pay disbursements to be carried out through these scholarships instead of fellowship grants, otherwise known as stipends.
Elected and appointed executive officers will receive scholarships starting June 2017. The new payment structure has already kicked in for senators.
Under the old payment structure, ASI members received funds from fellowships on a monthly basis. Scholarship funds, however, are paid out in a lump sum at the start of the semester.
The new pay structure does not affect the total amount an ASI member receives. Senators receive $800 a semester while most executives receive $1264.
Some have expressed concern over the new pay structure because it pays out to ASI members who have yet to start their term of service.
Former Treasury Secretary Wendy Lewis and former Executive Director Richard Haller both voiced doubt about the ethical integrity of the amendment when it was under consideration in the senate.
Jeffrey Acance, a Cal State Long Beach alumnus and volunteer with K-Beach Radio, said he wonders if paying ASI members at the beginning of the semester will affect their quality of work.
“If you reward someone immediately, how can you depend on their work rate being up to par thereafter?” he said.
ASI President Marvin Flores said he is withholding judgement until the evidence is in on whether senators will slack off.
“Honestly, I don’t know how it’ll affect accountability,” Flores said. “We’re definitely looking into it right now with the executive team to see how we can hold members accountable this year with scholarships.”
Flores said that several additions to the Senate Working Rules & Procedures, which govern how members conduct themselves, are pending.
One addition might include a requirement for senators to attend every meeting.
The current Senate Working Rules state that “Any Senator who is absent from more than three Senate meetings during one semester” will face a reprimand and possibly be forced to resign.
A senator who doesn’t attend meetings can also be subject to removal through a process that requires the approval of a senate majority, according to the Senate Working Rules.
Although new rules requiring 100 percent attendance have not been enacted officially, the conduct of senators has so far been satisfactory, Flores said. “For the most part, it’s working out pretty well.”
ASI Treasury Secretary Giovanni Smith said the new pay structure is still in its test phase.
“It’s not set in stone,” he said. “We are still, as executive officers and students…looking at this and evaluating it.”
“It’s just like laws,” Smith continued. “Laws change to reflect the time.”
Because scholarship funds are directed through the financial aid office, these funds are subject to financial aid oversight. And since FAFSA counts scholarship money towards income, this could disqualify some ASI members from receiving federal aid.
Another consequence of the new structure is that some senators may have to withdraw less than they normally would on a loan. If a student’s maximum allowable budget as determined by FAFSA is capped at $20,000, for example, a scholarship could tip a student over that amount. They would therefore have an incentive to withdraw less on a loan. According to Smith, withdrawing less on a loan would keep a student’s income level from exceeding the threshold dollar amount they can have before being disqualified for aid.
The threshold amount varies from student to student depending on their assets and income.
Smith said that the scholarship could infringe on how much an ASI officer ultimately takes out on a loan.
This story was updated Oct. 25 at 12:27 to correctly identify ASI President Marvin Flores.