Payroll and perks for IUP student pols

A Civic Project story

Indiana University of Pennsylvania Student Government Association executive board, left to right: Caleb N. King (chief Justice), Carson F. Nicholas (vice president), Brian H. Swatt (president), Vincent Lowerre (treasurer) and Brandon H. Rager (secretary). Photo from IUP SGA Facebook page, Oct. 16, 2016.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania Student Government Association executive board, left to right: Caleb N. King (chief Justice), Carson F. Nicholas (vice president), Brian H. Swatt (president), Vincent Lowerre (treasurer) and Brandon H. Rager (secretary). Photo from IUP SGA Facebook page, Oct. 16, 2016.

By Allyson Rae Null

INDIANA – Maria J. Donofrio, a 22-year-old hospitality-management major, expressed surprise and concern when she learned that Indiana University of Pennsylvania has a Student Government Association whose leaders are elected — and paid — by students like her.

“It actually scares me that I’m giving these guys my money when I have no clue what they do for us students,” said Donofrio on Nov. 28 at her Wayne Avenue apartment.

Donofrio may not be alone in the dark about SGA’s existence. A recent unscientific Facebook poll asked IUP undergraduates about the elected government of, by and for the students. Fewer than a dozen responded.

Like Donofrio, unfamiliarity may breed contempt among students who discover that SGA officers occupy salaried positions that are funded by activity fees paid by every student.

According to the IUP Undergraduate Catalog, every undergraduate is required to pay the per-credit fee. It is collected and administered by the Student Cooperative Association, an auxiliary to the university. The fee covers the costs of “student activities in recreation, athletics, lectures, entertainment, student organizations, student publications, etc.”

The fee is capped at $420 per student, per semester, for a typical 15-credit course load, according to the catalog. If each of IUP’s 12,853 undergraduates paid the $420 per-semester fee, the revenue generated would total around $11 million a year.

The actual figure is unknown. SGA officers and Student Co-Op administrators declined to provide their budgets.

Four SGA officers are paid salaries every two weeks during the school year. The officers and their paychecks are:

• President Brian H. Swatt, $203.33
• Vice President Carson F. Nicholas, $102.33
• Chief Justice Caleb N. King, $75
• Secretary Brandon H. Rager, $50

The four officers’ combined monthly payroll is $861.32.

 

RECENTLY, SGA members considered a proposal by Swatt to spread the wealth to three additional SGA members.

On Nov. 1, SGA convened a regularly scheduled evening meeting in the Monongahela Room of the Hadley Union Building. Of SGA’s total membership of 44 student representatives, 19 – fewer than half – were present at the U-shaped conference tables.

Swatt, dressed in a button-down shirt and tie under an IUP-logo fleece jacket, called the meeting to order at 7:35 p.m. During his president’s report, Swatt proposed that SGA’s seven-member executive board be paid, an addition of three members – a 42 percent expansion — to the existing four-member payroll.

Brian H. Swatt, president, Indiana University of Pennsylvania Student Government Association, April 23, 2016. Photo by Casey Kelly.

Brian H. Swatt, president, Indiana University of Pennsylvania Student Government Association, April 23, 2016. Photo by Casey Kelly.

Swatt’s generosity was not limited to SGA leadership. He also proposed at the Nov. 1 meeting that all SGA members should receive a discount on textbooks sold by the IUP Student Co-op store. Swatt did not specify what sort of discount SGA members would receive. There was no discussion or vote.

At SGA’s Nov. 8 meeting, the proposed padding of the payroll was not mentioned. At SGA’s Nov. 15 meeting, Swatt said, “It is our job to work to make sure all IUP faculty and students are fairly represented.”

SGA officers were unresponsive to questions following the Nov. 1 proposals about payroll and perks.

Treasurer Vincent Lowerre did not respond to Nov. 9 and Nov. 16 emails requesting the student-government organization’s 2016-2017 budget.

Vice President Carson F. Nicholas did not respond to a Nov. 9 e-mail requesting budget information.

President Swatt stopped responding to emails on Nov. 16.

Student Cooperative Association Executive Director Louis F. Garzarelli, who administers student-government revenues and budgets, declined to provide access to SGA budgets. During a Nov. 14 phone interview, Garzarelli said he could not release SGA budgets without SGA permission.

 

DONOFRIO EXPRESSED exasperation over the SGA payroll.

“I think it’s crazy that us students are technically paying them,” she wrote in a Dec. 31 text message. “I have been in my fair share of clubs. But I’ve never gotten paid.”

Allyson Rae Null, a senior majoring in journalism and public relations and communications media at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is from Johnstown.

 

Sidebar: IUP SGA and Crimson Connect

Indiana University of Pennsylvania Student Government Association members like to talk about Crimson Connect. During an hour-long Nov. 1 SGA meeting, members uttered the name 22 times.

IUP SGA executive board meeting, Monongahela Room, Hadley Union Building, Nov. 1, 2016. Photo by Allyson Rae Null.

IUP SGA executive board meeting, Monongahela Room, Hadley Union Building, Nov. 1, 2016. Photo by Allyson Rae Null.

The student-government organization has good reason to talk about the proprietary software system bought by SGA in fall 2013. The cost was $23,738 for a one-year license. SGA has continued to pay similar amounts annually since then.

The vendor, CollegiateLink,  designs and sells software that allows campus organizations to post information and events.

At IUP, CollegiateLink was re-branded Crimson Connect in fall 2013. The site lists 346 student organizations, ranging from Acacia, a social fraternity, to Zeta Tau Alpha, a women’s fraternity.

The SGA’s Crimson Connect page, for example, describes the student-government organization’s mission statement:

“The Student Government Association of Indiana University of Pennsylvania shall serve to provide the students and organizations of IUP with a representative voice that promotes and enriches the welfare of the students. In addition to being the voice of students on campus, SGA is an intermediary between the students and faculty.”

In November, SGA President Brian Swatt reported that Crimson Connect will cost $23,341 for 2017. But the cost will be paid for in part by the university administration, not only by IUP students from their activity fees.

“For the next year, IUP Student Affairs has agreed to contribute and pay a portion of the Crimson Connect fee,” said Swatt in a Nov. 16 e-mail.

The Student Affairs office will pay $1,250, Swatt announced — 5 percent of the cost of Crimson Connect for the year.

The 95 percent balance will be paid by students through their student-activity fees.

 

Sidebar: Where SGA’s money comes from

Student activity fees paid by every Indiana University of Pennsylvania undergraduate on the main and Punxsutawney campuses may generate as much as $11 million a year. The money is collected by the Student Cooperative Association and distributed to student organizations and activities, ranging from athletics to lectures.

The fee has increased even faster than the cost of tuition — and much faster than the consumer price index that the federal government publishes to calculate the U.S. rate of inflation.

Five years ago, during the 2012-2013 academic year, full-time students paid $283.50 per semester for the activity fee. In the 2016-2017 academic year, full-time IUP undergrads pay $420, a 48 percent hike.

During the same period, the nation’s consumer price index — a measure of increased prices of goods and services and corresponding devaluations of the dollar – rose 5 percent. Thus, IUP student activity fees rose nearly 10 times faster than the nation’s inflation rate.

 

Sidebar: For more information or to get involved

For more information about this story or to get engaged in the issues raised, contact the following sources:

Brian H. Swatt
President
IUP Student Government Association
212A Hadley Union Building
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Indiana, PA 15701
E-mail: b.h.swatt@iup.edu
Website: https://iup.collegiatelink.net/organization/StudentGovernmentAssociation

Carson F. Nicholas
Vice President
IUP Student Government Association
212A Hadley Union Building
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Indiana, PA 15705
E-mail: C.Nicholas@iup.edu
Website: https://iup.collegiatelink.net/organization/StudentGovernmentAssociation

Brandon H. Rager
Secretary
IUP Student Government Association
212A Hadley Union Building
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Indiana, PA 15705
E-mail: B.H.Rager@iup.edu
Website: https://iup.collegiatelink.net/organization/StudentGovernmentAssociation

Caleb N. King
Chief Justice
IUP Student Government Association
212A Hadley Union Building
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Indiana, PA 15705
E-mail: C.N.King@iup.edu
Website: https://iup.collegiatelink.net/organization/StudentGovernmentAssociation

Meghan R. Delsite
Faculty Adviser
Student Government Association
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
307K Pratt Hall
201 Pratt Drive
Indiana, PA 15705
Phone: 724-357-2598
E-mail: m.r.delsite@iup.edu
Website: https://iup.collegiatelink.net/organization/StudentGovernmentAssociation

Louis F. Garzarelli
Executive Director & CEO
IUP Student Co-op
Hadley Union Building
319 Pratt Drive
Indiana, PA 15701
Phone: (724) 357-1374
E-mail: louis.garzarelli@iup.edu
Website: http://www.coop.iup.edu

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